Discontinuous Behavioral Responses to Recycling Laws and Plastic Water Bottle Deposits

62 Pages Posted: 15 Dec 2009 Last revised: 5 Aug 2010

See all articles by W. Kip Viscusi

W. Kip Viscusi

Vanderbilt University - Law School; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); Vanderbilt University - Department of Economics; Vanderbilt University - Owen Graduate School of Management; Vanderbilt University - Strategy and Business Economics

Joel Huber

Duke University - Fuqua School of Business

Jason Bell

Duke University - Fuqua School of Business

Caroline Cecot

George Mason University - Antonin Scalia Law School, Faculty

Date Written: December 2009

Abstract

Economic theory predicts that individual recycling behavior gravitates toward extremes--either diligent recycling or no recycling at all. Using a nationally representative sample of 3,158 bottled water users, this article finds that this prediction is borne out for consumer recycling of plastic water bottles. Both water bottle deposits and recycling laws foster recycling through a discontinuous effect that converts reluctant recyclers into diligent recyclers. Within this context, a number of factors influencing recycling emerge. The warm glow from being both an environmentalist and an environmental group member is about equal to the monetary value of 5 cent bottle deposits. Respondents from states with stringent recycling laws and bottle deposits have greater recycling rates. Consistent with recycling being a threshold response, the efficacy of these policy interventions is greater for those who do not already recycle, have lower income, and do not consider themselves to be environmentalists.

Suggested Citation

Viscusi, W. Kip and Huber, Joel and Bell, Jason and Cecot, Caroline, Discontinuous Behavioral Responses to Recycling Laws and Plastic Water Bottle Deposits (December 2009). NBER Working Paper No. w15585, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1522374

W. Kip Viscusi (Contact Author)

Vanderbilt University - Law School ( email )

131 21st Avenue South
Nashville, TN 37203-1181
United States
615-343-7715 (Phone)
615-322-5953 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://law.vanderbilt.edu/faculty/viscusi.htm

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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Vanderbilt University - Department of Economics

Box 1819 Station B
Nashville, TN 37235
United States
(615) 343-7715 (Phone)
(615) 343-5953 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://law.vanderbilt.edu/faculty/viscusi.htm

Vanderbilt University - Owen Graduate School of Management

401 21st Avenue South
Nashville, TN 37203
United States
(615) 343-7715 (Phone)
(615) 343-5953 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://law.vanderbilt.edu/faculty/viscusi.htm

Vanderbilt University - Strategy and Business Economics ( email )

Nashville, TN 37203
United States

Joel Huber

Duke University - Fuqua School of Business ( email )

Box 90120
Durham, NC 27708-0120
United States
919-660-7785 (Phone)

Jason Bell

Duke University - Fuqua School of Business ( email )

Box 90120
Durham, NC 27708-0120
United States

Caroline Cecot

George Mason University - Antonin Scalia Law School, Faculty ( email )

3301 Fairfax Drive
Arlington, VA 22201
United States

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