Waste as a Common Treasury: The Impact of Different Property Regimes

  • Katrien Steenmans (Speaker)

Activity: Talk or presentationOral presentation


The unsustainable amounts of waste currently produced are hugely problematic – resources are being ‘wasted’ and there are numerous issues related to current waste management operations. Many different policies have been introduced to tackle the existing waste crises, such as policies on the circular economy (in which wastes and resources are ‘looped’ back into systems through reuse, recycling and recovery) and Sustainable Development Goal 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production). Yet, these have neither had the required nor desired transformative effect. This paper therefore examines recasting waste as a common treasury that may, combined with existing policies, incentivise the prevention and sustainable management of waste.

The aim of this paper is two-fold. First, I evaluate the value of reconceiving waste as a common treasury, which is a concept introduced by Malcolm and Clarke to describe the physical nature and importance of a resource, rather than its legal nature. In contrast to Malcolm and Clarke’s work, which examines water, waste is a man-made and often unwanted good. This reconceptualisation is useful to overcome the limitations of current conceptualisations of waste as a resource, which result in its commodification and often disincentivises its prevention. Second, I examine the impacts of the private, communal, state and no property in waste to identify the most appropriate property scheme for waste to operate as a common treasury.

This paper therefore contributes to furthering arguments introduced by Clarke and Malcolm on the notion of common treasury and their consideration of the most fitting property rights, by investigating the particular example of the man-made resource of waste in contrast to their examination of a natural resource, water.
Period9 Jun 2021
Event titleYoung Property Lawyers’ Forum 2021
Event typeConference


  • waste
  • common treasury
  • property