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Municipal Waste Management: Inequities and the Role of Deliberation

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Like radioactive waste, municipal solid waste (MSW) requires consideration of a complex mix of intergenerational and intragenerational risks surrounded by uncertain science. Unlike radioactive waste, MSW is a common problem and hence one often perceived to be controllable, at least until a required facility is proposed in a particular community. The intragenerational risks focused on local communities rouse intense public pressures for management. Although some of the risks can be quantified, the risk assessment process cannot deal with all questions. This article examines the multiple dimensions of the decisions required to be made and the weaknesses of a number of decision tools traditionally used. A case is made for the need to integrate decision tools appropriate to the risks into reflexive and iterative decision processes open to public involvement. It is argued that this presents the best hope of both optimizing decisions about the intragenerational risks as well as raising public debate about the importance of sustainable waste management in transgenerational terms.

Keywords: Municipal waste management; analytical-deliberative processes; decision tools; life-cycle assessment; public participation; risk assessment

Document Type: Original Article


Affiliations: Centre for Environmental Research and Training, University of Birmingham, UK

Publication date: December 1, 2000

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