Hazardous waste anyone? A comparison of participatory and non-participatory approaches to hazardous waste siting

Dave Huitema*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book / Report / Conference proceedingChapterAcademicpeer-review


This chapter is about locally-unwanted land uses, specifically hazardous waste treatment facilities. Finding a location for such a facility can pose various difficulties, not the least of which is the problem of gaining acceptance from surrounding communities. These often resent the idea of having a waste treatment facility in their area, a resentment that is labelled by the increasingly familiar term NIMBYism (Not In My Back Yard). It is exceedingly difficult to overcome negative community feelings, which are channeled through legal procedures and sometimes through extra-legal means ('siting gridlock'). These problems have received much attention in North America, but are certainly not unique to that continent (see for example Davy, 1997). Over recent decades, a large amount of literature has been produced which discusses the causes of siting gridlock and offers advice on how to improve practice (see for example Portney, 1991; Rabe, 1994; Williams & Matheny, 1995; Bradshaw, 2003; Petts 2000, 2001; Watson and Bulkeley, 2005; Kuhn and Ballard, 1998; Lidskog, 2005). The causes of siting gridlock that have been identified revolve around multiple types of inter related factors. They include the decline of deference to government (see for example Pushchak, 1998), a lack of trust in the institutions that make hazardous waste decisions (see for example Wynne, 1987), and changes in the perception of risks (see for example Slovic, 2001). Given the diversity in causes of siting problems, it is remarkable that the solutions generally centre on giving local communities a greater role in hazardous waste decision-making. This can be in the form of increased citizen participation in discussions on hazardous waste regulations or proposals for individual facilities (Williams & Matheny), or in the form of communities becoming a party that negotiates compensation for damages (Inhaber, 1998). The terms used in describing such approaches include 'voluntary siting', 'community-based siting', 'the compensatory approach', and 'hazardous waste auctions'.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPublic Participation and Better Environmental Decisions
Subtitle of host publicationThe Promise and Limits of Participatory Processes for the Quality of Environmentally Related Decision-making
EditorsF.H.J.M. Coenen
PublisherSpringer Netherlands
Number of pages23
ISBN (Electronic)9781402093258
ISBN (Print)9781402093241, 9789048181070
Publication statusPublished - 2009


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