A policy analysis of waste management legislation in Canada and Germany with a focus on the polluter pays principle


University of British Columbia

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Master of Laws - LLM




My thesis critically examines the legal approach to waste management that Canada and Germany have taken over the past twenty years. Waste management offers an excellent paradigm for understanding pollution issues in general, as waste disposal, in one form or another, lies at the root of all pollution. As a highly visible environmental problem, waste has earned a great deal of attention from environmental policy and law makers. Waste management law represents a "microcosm" of environmental law, and thus offers a particularly suitable context for analysing the development of modern environmental policy. Environmental degradation is caused by the aggregated decisions of all members of society. This implies that everyone must be involved in the effort to reestablish the vital link between the eco-system and the economy. Some argue that environmental problems result from market failure and that polluters must be given an incentive to consider environmental issues as a cost factor in their decision-making. Since its development in the 1970s in the economic context, the polluter pays principle has become a basic element of environmental policy, serving as an instrument to determine who should bear responsibility for environmental protection. In my thesis, I examine how this concept has been integrated into national policies. In particular, I analyse the implementation of the principle in the context of contaminated sites remediation and of recycling, where new concepts of environmental responsibility have emerged. The polluter pays principle is a promising concept for finding a solution to certain environmental problems. If the necessary ecological reforms are to take place, however, law and policy require a moral dimension to change people's attitude towards their environment. Environmental policy cannot be left to the uncertainties of profit signals in the market place, as a strategic approach in both space and time mandates an active role for government. The aim of this thesis is to point out some of the ways in which Canadian and German environmental policy, as implemented in waste law, has tried to cope with the complex issue of environmental protection and, in particular, whether and how a new concept of individual responsibility for the environment has gained recognition.

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Law, Peter A. Allard School of