Friday, December 18, 2009

NBER Paper on Environmental Behaviour

Discontinuous Behavioral Responses to Recycling Laws and Plastic Water Bottle Deposits 

W. Kip ViscusiJoel HuberJason BellCaroline Cecot

NBER Working Paper No. 15585*
Issued in December 2009
This article examines the effects of recycling and deposit laws on consumer recycling of plastic water bottles using a nationally representative sample of 2,550 bottled water users. Economic theory predicts individual behavior that gravitates toward extremes—either diligent recycling or no recycling at all. This pattern is borne out in actual recycling behavior. Both water bottle deposits and recycling laws foster recycling behavior through a discontinuous effect that converts reluctant recyclers into diligent recyclers. More stringent recycling laws have a greater effect on recycling rates. The efficacy of these interventions is greatest for those who would not already recycle and especially for those in lower income groups or who do not consider themselves to be environmentalists.

1 comment:

Jude Delaney said...

I don't have access to NBER on my computer so I can't read the paper so what I am about to say maybe totally irrelevant. However with regard recycling incentives, in California there is a 5 cent refund per each plastic bottle you recycle. Since a bottle of water now costs an extra 5 cent to every consumer, it effects alot of people. I consume alot of water so I decided to recycle and so far I have got 10 dollars which is quite alot for a grad student! I definitely would not have recycled if there was no refund so it does provide an incentive to recycle for people like myself. However, other people who do not recycle are paying an extra 5 cent for a bottle of water and getting no refund. There are also lower class people who try to earn extra money by collecting bottles from the streets at night. So in addition to increasing recylcing, one could argue that it also provides jobs and keeps the streets cleaner (and a leisure activity it seems - a guy in my class collects cans for a hobbie!)However on a darker side, I have witnessed many people climb into recycling bins and take the bottles from the bin! I am by no means interested in environmental economics and not bothered by whether the refund is actually successful in increasng recycling; what I find alot more interesting is who loses and who gains from such a refund. There are so many different cases to consider such as a consumer who purchases a bottle and does not recyle, a consumer who recycles, the people who collect bottles from the streets, and whoever actually receives the revenue from the refund(I don't know, probably some environmental agency). It must be noted that the refund also applies to alumunium cans, glass bottles and much more.