Tag: private costs

Billions of plastic bags are used and discarded each year around the world and these cause considerable environmental damage – a form of market failure. In this podcast we consider the extent of the problem and policies that countries around the world are adopting to try to minimise this market failure. Many countries, including China, have banned single-use plastic bags completely, while others, such as Ireland, have chosen to tax them to try to limit their use.

Britain’s recycling strategy is under risk following a collapse in waste paper prices. Three quarters of UK waste paper is exported to Far Eastern buyers, but demand from this region has collapsed in recent months. The price collapse has led to a surplus of recyclable paper and some local authorities have proposed using Ministry of Defence (MoD) sites to store the waste while there is no market or use for it.

Paper price collapse blows hole in Britain’s recycling strategy Guardian (11/11/08)
Recycled waste could be stored on MoD bases Guardian (16/11/08)


  1. Define the terms (i) private cost and (ii) external cost.
  2. What are the external costs resulting from disposing of waste paper and other recyclable products in landfill sites?
  3. Using diagrams as appropriate, illustrate the changes that have taken place in the market for waste paper.
  4. Evaluate two strategies that the government could adopt to increase the price of waste paper.
  5. Discuss the likely success of a policy of storing waste on MoD sites to await an upturn in the recycling market..

March 2007 has seen a lot of activity in government circles relating to the environment and environmental legislation. The EU has agreed a renewable energy target for all members while the UK government has released its own climate change bill. The Carbon Trust has then released a one-year pilot of a carbon labelling scheme, with Walkers Crisps being the first brand to bear the carbon labels. The aim is to increase consumers’ awareness of the carbon footprint of the goods they are buying. The articles linked below look at all these issues.

EU agrees renewable energy target BBC News Online (9/3/07)
EU seeks converts to eco-stoicism BBC News Online (9/3/07)
Navarra embraces green energy BBC News Online (9/3/07)
How Europe can save the world Guardian (11/3/07)
Carbon labelling scheme launched BBC News Online (15/3/07)
Labels reveal goods’ carbon cost BBC News Online (16/3/07)
New law in the climate jungle BBC News Online (13/3/07)


1. Explain the difference between private costs and external costs. Identify five external costs that arise from the generation of electricity by conventional means.
2. Using diagrams as appropriate, show the impact on the market for energy of increased use of energy generated from renewable sources.
3. Evaluate the likely effectiveness of the carbon labelling scheme introduced by the Carbon Trust.