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Metals recycling: economic and environmental implications

Author: Ayres, Robert U. INSEAD Area: Economics and Political ScienceIn: Resources, Conservation and Recycling, vol. 21, 1997 Language: EnglishDescription: p. 145-173.Type of document: INSEAD ArticleNote: Please ask us for this itemAbstract: Environmental services are no longer free goods. Recycling is the wave of the future. The potential savings in terms of energy and capital have long been obvious. The savings in terms of reduced environmental impact are increasingly important. The obstacle to greater use recycling has been the fact that economies of scale still favor large primary mining and smelting complexes over smaller and less centralized recyclers. But this advantage is declining over time as the inventory of potentially recyclable metals in industrialized society grows to the point that efficient collection and logistic systems, and efficient markets, justify significant investments in recycling. Increasing energy and other resource costs, together with increasing costs of waste treatment and disposal, will favor this shift in any case. But government policies, driven by unemployment and environmental concerns may accelerate the shift by gradually reducing taxes on labor and increasing taxes on extractive resource use.
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Environmental services are no longer free goods. Recycling is the wave of the future. The potential savings in terms of energy and capital have long been obvious. The savings in terms of reduced environmental impact are increasingly important. The obstacle to greater use recycling has been the fact that economies of scale still favor large primary mining and smelting complexes over smaller and less centralized recyclers. But this advantage is declining over time as the inventory of potentially recyclable metals in industrialized society grows to the point that efficient collection and logistic systems, and efficient markets, justify significant investments in recycling. Increasing energy and other resource costs, together with increasing costs of waste treatment and disposal, will favor this shift in any case. But government policies, driven by unemployment and environmental concerns may accelerate the shift by gradually reducing taxes on labor and increasing taxes on extractive resource use.

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