NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Discontinuous Behavioral Responses to Recycling Laws and Plastic Water Bottle Deposits

W. Kip Viscusi, Joel Huber, Jason Bell, Caroline Cecot

NBER Working Paper No. 15585
Issued in December 2009
NBER Program(s):   LE   EEE

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.

download in pdf format
   (212 K)

email paper

A non-technical summary of this paper is available in the May 2010 NBER digest.  You can sign up to receive the NBER Digest by email.

This paper is available as PDF (212 K) or via email.

This paper was revised on December 5, 2011

Acknowledgments

Machine-readable bibliographic record - MARC, RIS, BibTeX

Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w15585

Published: "Discontinuous Behavioral Responses to Recycling Laws and Plastic Water Bottle Deposits," with Joel Huber, Jason Bell, and Caroline Cecot, American Law and Economics Review, Vol. 15, No. 1 (Spring 2013), pp. 110-155.

Users who downloaded this paper also downloaded these:
Kinnaman and Fullerton w6021 Garbage and Recycling in Communities with Curbside Recycling and Unit-Based Pricing
Kinnaman and Fullerton w7326 The Economics of Residential Solid Waste Management
Fullerton and Kinnaman w4374 Garbage, Recycling, and Illicit Burning or Dumping
Fullerton and Kinnaman w4670 "Household Responses for Pricing Garbage by the Bag,"
Fullerton and Wolverton w7505 Two Generalizations of a Deposit-Refund System
 
Publications
Activities
Meetings
Data
People
About

Support
National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138; 617-868-3900; email: info@nber.org

Contact Us