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Smart labels in municipal solid waste — a case for the Precautionary Principle?

TitleSmart labels in municipal solid waste — a case for the Precautionary Principle?
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2005
AuthorsWaeger PA, Eugster M, Hilty LM, Som C
Journal TitleEnvironmental Impact Assessment Review
Volume25
Pages567– 586
KeywordsPrecautionary Principle, recycling, RFID transponders, Risk assessment, Smart Labels, Sustainable development, Waste management
AbstractThe Precautionary Principle aims at anticipating and minimizing potentially serious or irreversible risks under conditions of uncertainty. Although it has been incorporated into many international treaties and pieces of national legislation for environmental protection and sustainable development, the Precautionary Principle has rarely been applied to novel Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) and their potential environmental impacts. In this article we analyze the implications of the disposal and recycling of packaging materials containing so-called smart labels and discuss the results from the perspective of the Precautionary Principle. We argue that a broad application of smart labels bears some risk of dissipating both toxic and valuable substances, and of disrupting established recycling processes. However, these risks can be avoided by precautionary measures, mainly concerning the composition and the use of smart labels. These measures should be implemented as early as possible in order to avoid irreversible developments which are undesirable from the viewpoint of resource management and environmental protection.
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