The Role of Waste Management in the Green Economy: An Empirical Analysis of Economic Data of the Business

The Role of Waste Management in the Green Economy: An Empirical Analysis of Economic Data of the Business

Massimo Saita (University of Milano Bicocca, Italy) and Maria Vittoria Franceschelli (University of Milano Bicocca, Italy)
Copyright: © 2017 |Pages: 31
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-2075-7.ch006
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Abstract

Green economy has become highly relevant over the last years. We are currently experiencing pollution issue and environmental decay that had its origin, however, in the previous centuries. The development of industrial economy inevitably entails the production of waste, in such a quantity that the environment is incapable of assimilating and transforming it naturally. Therefore, it is believed that one of the main green economy sectors is the waste retrieval and recycling, that means waste management. In the existing literature, this sector has not been deeply analyzed from a viewpoint of performance business analysis. Although a European legislation exists, every country manages this business by itself. After a historical introduction, this study, using the regression model, analyses the variables that influence the Italian business of waste retrieval and recycling, in the process establishing which of them has a deeper impact on performance.
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Introduction

Environment and Human Beings: A Historical Background

Animal and vegetable organisms carry out their lives in the biosphere, i.e. in the environment surrounding them. Such physical and biological components have neither been designed not built by man.

No doubt, the environment undergoes an ongoing evolution, and accordingly changes as years elapse by virtue of nature itself. Not only that. The activities engaged in by man have altered the terrestrial biosphere; thereby have occasioned changes in soil, air and water. Such transformations may result in environmental decay.

The natural environment changes by the action of endogenous or exogenous agents. These agents modify the earth demolishing a part and constituting another, to thereby maintain a balance.

Classical literature describes Germany as entirely covered by forests (Tacitus in Germania) and Egypt and Mauritania as the granaries of the Empire. In the first case, human settlements of Germanic tribes expanded the vital space by creating glades to locate the settlements and develop agriculture. In the second one natural events transform it in desert.

Human activity has often transformed the landscape through destructive actions, which have irreversibly compromised the environmental balance. At the beginning of agricultural activity that the human species started causing deep changes to the territory. Man has exploited the environment for the sake of his personal sustentation. Over time, this exploitation increased ever more, because it was related to the country development. The trend began to abuse the available resources, as if they were at no cost (which was, after all, the case from the perspective of sheer economic cost). The Earth was offering resources to man, and men were using them.

Through the cultural development, spread awareness that such resources were not “free of charge”. One of the first environmental protection laws dated back to 1769, when it was decreed that forests on the island of Mauritius should be safeguarded. As Grove (1996) stated, the most important and innovative aspect of French’s environmental protection in Mauritius, was the acknowledgment of a link between deforestation and local climatic changes. Deforestation, after all, is the work of man, implemented in order to set aside the soil for a different use than the preservation of forests, generally by using the soil first for agricultural purposes and then for industrial ones. Consciousness was thus undergoing a change. The development of industrial economy was deemed by many scientists to represent “a threat to mankind’s survival”. Well-known, among others, is Wilson’s (1858) study on the drying up of the earth and the atmosphere, in which his concern surfaced: changes in the atmosphere are slowly drawing close to the state in which it will be impossible for man to live on the Earth. This paper can be said to mark the onset of a truly international environmental debate in which processes operating at a global scale were being considered (Grove, 1995, p. 159).

This realization burst forth in the 70s of the XX century. So a new branch of economic discipline, viz. “environmental economy”, was born for the sake of picking up the interactions between environment and development, by setting a limit on the constant growth of production and on the use of resources, and by implementing the environment’s ability, to receive the only product unable to transform itself, save across millennia: waste.

Environmental economy may be defined as the study of the regulation of polluting activities and the assessment of environmental beauties. Famous is the exemplification of the economy-environment relationship by the economist Kenneth Boulding (1966). He used the “metaphor of the space shuttle”: the economy experienced up to this moment was compared to a cowboy who saw the far west as a «frontier» capable of being continuously shifted by acquiring new lands, and thus new resources to exploit. The economy, instead, should be considered as an astronaut aboard a space shuttle, who can solely enjoy a limited kit of resources, which he must try to save and recycle as much as possible.

In this period, there was no way of severing the link between environment and economy. Politics began to adapt to these new ideas and realizations. Companies began to adapt to the policies and the new legislative provisions, until they arrived at a system where health and environmental integrity acquired an ever-increasing relevance.

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