Alternative Policies to Increase Recycling of Plastic Water Bottles in the United States

44 Pages Posted: 15 Dec 2010 Last revised: 2 May 2014

See all articles by Jason Bell

Jason Bell

Duke University - Fuqua School of Business

Joel Huber

Duke University - Fuqua School of Business

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

Date Written: September 22, 2010

Abstract

Using an original, nationally representative sample of plastic water bottle users, this article examines the efficacy of policy mechanisms to foster increased recycling. In particular, it examines the impact of the stringency of a state’s laws on the availability of recycling opportunities such as the availability of recycling centers or curbside pickups. As a result, household level data controlling for the particular recycling legal regime and the state’s bottle deposit policy demonstrates that there is a positive effect on recycling from mandated separation of recyclables, the availability of a recycling center in the community, and the provision of curbside pickup at houses or recycling locations at apartments. Further, we show that recycling opportunities compensate for each other. For example, deposits for plastic water bottles and recycling centers increase recycling rates, although their impact becomes less pronounced if curbside pickups are available. Moreover, the efficacy of these policies exhibits a discontinuous effect, characterized by a jump in the household behavioral response as effective laws transform non-recyclers into diligent recyclers. Most of these findings are associational, but, examining two states which changed their deposit laws demonstrates that changes in recycling behavior can be generated by changes in recycling laws.

Keywords: recycling, bottle deposits, plastic water bottles, curbside pickup

JEL Classification: Q28, K32

Suggested Citation

Bell, Jason and Huber, Joel and Viscusi, W. Kip, Alternative Policies to Increase Recycling of Plastic Water Bottles in the United States (September 22, 2010). Vanderbilt Law and Economics Research Paper No. 10-35. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1724889 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1724889

Jason Bell

Duke University - Fuqua School of Business ( email )

Box 90120
Durham, NC 27708-0120
United States

Joel Huber

Duke University - Fuqua School of Business ( email )

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

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)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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

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