Alternative Policies to Increase Recycling of Plastic Water Bottles in the United States
44 Pages Posted: 15 Dec 2010 Last revised: 2 May 2014
Date Written: September 22, 2010
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: Suggested Citation