Environment, Development and Sustainability

, Volume 11, Issue 1, pp 43–69 | Cite as

Sustainability gaps in municipal solid waste management: a case study for landfills

  • Stefan Bayer
  • Jacques Méry


Our paper compares the external effects of two municipal solid waste disposal technologies, (1) bioreactor or active landfill and (2) dry tomb landfills, in a 600-year time-horizon using two different discounting techniques: (a) constant conventional discounting and (b) generation adjusted discounting (GAD). The paper starts with a short description of the basic characteristics of the two landfill-types. To demonstrate the sustainability deficiencies of constant discounting sustainability gaps are defined and calculated. The reference case for these calculations is GAD which takes into account the basic requirements of sustainable development, especially intergenerational equity, as is demanded in the general Brundtland-definition of sustainable development. Our calculations show that constant discounting generally applies discount rates that are too high to be in accordance with the sustainability criterion leading to biased political suggestions. However, our analysis is not solely restricted to landfills. It could be used as a guideline to quickly check whether the results of social cost-benefit analyses of long-term public projects are in accordance with general sustainability criteria.


Generation adjusted discounting (GAD) Constant discounting Sustainability gap External costs Bioreactor landfill Dry tomb landfill 



For helpful comments and suggestions we would like to thank two anonymous referees. We also would like to thank the DAAD (PKZ D/0333552) and EGIDE (No. 07657 NH) who provided welcome financial support. The views expressed in this paper are the author’s and not necessarily those of the organizations they are affiliated with.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Social SciencesStaff and Command College of the German Armed ForcesHamburgGermany
  2. 2.Hydrosystems and Bioprocesses Research UnitFrench Institute of Agricultural and Environmental Engineering Research (Cemagref)AntonyFrance

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