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One man’s trash is another man’s treasure: A comparative analysis of property rights in solid waste

Giuseppe Danese ()
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Giuseppe Danese: Católica Porto Business School – CEGE – Universidade Católica Portuguesa

No 2, Working Papers de Economia (Economics Working Papers) from Católica Porto Business School, Universidade Católica Portuguesa

Abstract: Previous literature has studied waste picking as an economic, social and environmental phenomenon of great importance in countries characterized by ineffective waste collection and recycling programs. The legal foundations of waste picking have, however, received little scholarly attention. Surveys conducted with waste pickers from 5 cities (Bogotá, Pune, Belo Horizonte, Durban, Nakuru) find that existing, and often hostile, regulations and competition from new entrants are key concerns for the waste pickers. In this paper, I argue that any system of legal rules that tries to exclude the waste pickers from the waste value chain results in high transaction costs and risks further aggravating existing social injustices. Several inclusive property right regimes are conceivable, from waste picker ownership of waste to a res nullius (nobody’s property) regime complemented by a right of first possession. Res nullius creates incentives for the stakeholders of waste to specialize in different segments of the collection and recycling chain. Possible drawbacks of this regime are dissipating rents because of open access to waste.

Keywords: property rights; solid waste; waste pickers; informal economy; res nullius (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: K11 O17 Q53 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Pages: 33 pages
Date: 2017-11
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-agr, nep-env, nep-law and nep-res
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