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Assessing 28 EU member states' environmental efficiency in national waste generation with DEA

Halkos, George, Petrou, Kleoniki Natalia
Journal of cleaner production 2019 v.208 pp. 509-521
European Union, capital, circular economy, economic crises, employment, greenhouse gas emissions, greenhouse gases, gross domestic product, issues and policy, landfills, laws and regulations, municipal solid waste, nitrogen oxides, population density, recycling, sulfur oxides, Germany, Ireland, United Kingdom
This paper deals with the efficiency of the 28 European Union (EU) Member States for the years 2008, 2010, 2012 and 2014 by employing Data Envelopment Analysis (DEA) and directional distance function to tackle undesirable outputs. Eight parameters are used, namely municipal solid waste (MSW) generation, employment rate, capital formation, gross domestic product (GDP), population density and for the first time sulphur oxide (SOx), nitrogen oxide (NOx) and greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions from the waste sector for the relevant countries. The innovation of this paper lies in the fact that both new parameters are taken into account and that diverse modelling techniques have been employed in terms of the outputs and inputs used. The empirical results obtained were bias corrected in order to get the correct efficiency scores for each country studied. Overall the most efficient countries were shown to be Germany, Ireland and the UK. These results were then reviewed against the recycling rate of each country for the examined time periods. The recycling rate actually depicts the DEA results, namely more efficient countries seem to have a higher recycling rate too. Moreover the DEA efficiency results were contrasted to the overall treatment options used in the countries under consideration. Overall it is noticed that countries employing all four treatment options with high use of more sustainable ones and decrease in the use of landfill are the ones that also proved to be efficient according to DEA. These results resemble the image of a financial crisis hit Europe which tried to take advantage of the more sustainable treatment options in order to achieve a transition to a circular economy, whereas the value of products, materials and resources needs to be maintained in the economy for as long as possible and the generation of waste minimised. This can be a valuable lesson for policy makers in the design and application of national and EU legislations and directives in order to achieve also the targets towards a circular economy driven Europe.