No Clue About Bioplastics

Tinbergen Institute Discussion Paper 2019-084/VIII

28 Pages Posted: 17 Dec 2019

See all articles by Erik Ansink

Erik Ansink

VU University Amsterdam - Department of Spatial Economics

Louise Wijk

Amsterdam University College

Frederiek Zuidmeer

VU University Amsterdam

Date Written: December 3, 2019


We analyze recycling decisions for bioplastics using a natural field experiment. The potential environmental benefits of these new plastics may not materialize if they are recycled incorrectly. The field experiment that we set up to test this recycling behavior exploits the setting of a lemonade tasting. In our experimental treatments, subjects are exposed to different types of bioplastics logos on their cups as well as varying amounts of recycling information. We use two types of bioplastics and compare these to conventional plastics in terms of whether subjects recycle the cups correctly. Our results show that over 90% of subjects dispose of their cup with plastic waste and that none of our treatments can snap subjects out of this default behavior. We interpret this finding as subjects having no clue how to recycle bioplastics. More generelly, these results point to skepticism regarding new products or varieties whose environmental benefits depend on proper use or disposal.

Keywords: recycling, field experiment, bioplastics

JEL Classification: Q53, C93

Suggested Citation

Ansink, Erik and Wijk, Louise and Zuidmeer, Frederiek, No Clue About Bioplastics (December 3, 2019). Tinbergen Institute Discussion Paper 2019-084/VIII. Available at SSRN: or

Erik Ansink (Contact Author)

VU University Amsterdam - Department of Spatial Economics ( email )

De Boelelaan 1105
1081HV Amsterdam

Louise Wijk

Amsterdam University College ( email )

Plantage Muidergracht 14
Amsterdam, 1018TV

Frederiek Zuidmeer

VU University Amsterdam ( email )

De Boelelaan 1105
Amsterdam, ND North Holland 1081 HV

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