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Deposit-Refund Systems in Practice and Theory

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  • Walls, Margaret

    ()
    (Resources for the Future)

Abstract

A deposit-refund system combines a tax on product consumption with a rebate when the product or its packaging is returned for recycling. Deposit-refunds are used for beverage containers, lead-acid batteries, motor oil, tires, various hazardous materials, electronics, and more. In addition, researchers have shown that the approach can be used to address many other environmental problems beyond waste disposal. By imposing an up-front fee on consumption and subsidizing “green” inputs and mitigation activities, a deposit-refund may be able to efficiently control pollution in much the same way as a Pigovian tax. Theoretical models have shown that alternative waste disposal policies, such as virgin materials taxes, advance disposal fees, recycled content standards, and recycling subsidies are inferior to a deposit-refund. These results have been corroborated in calibrated models of U.S. waste and recycling. And in theoretical models that consider joint environmental problems and product design considerations, the deposit-refund continues to have much to recommend it as a component of an overall socially optimal set of policies. More empirical research into deposit-refund systems is needed, particularly the upstream systems used for many products. In these systems, the processors or collectors of recyclables—rather than consumers—receive the refund. Upstream systems may have lower transaction costs and better environmental outcomes than traditional downstream systems.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Resources For the Future in its series Discussion Papers with number dp-11-47.

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Date of creation: 23 Nov 2011
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Handle: RePEc:rff:dpaper:dp-11-47

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Related research

Keywords: deposit-refund; waste disposal; recycling; source reduction; illegal dumping; Pigovian tax; advance disposal fee; upstream pollution; design for environment;

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References

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  1. Kinnaman, Thomas C. & Fullerton, Don, 2000. "Garbage and Recycling with Endogenous Local Policy," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 48(3), pages 419-442, November.
  2. Acuff, Kaylee & Kaffine, Daniel T., 2013. "Greenhouse gas emissions, waste and recycling policy," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 65(1), pages 74-86.
  3. Dinan Terry M., 1993. "Economic Efficiency Effects of Alternative Policies for Reducing Waste Disposal," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 25(3), pages 242-256, November.
  4. Palmer, Karen & Walls, Margaret, 2000. "Upstream Pollution, Downstream Waste Disposal, and the Design of Comprehensive Environmental Policies," Discussion Papers dp-97-51-rev, Resources For the Future.
  5. Walls, Margaret & Calcott, Paul, 2002. "Waste, Recycling, and "Design for Environment": Roles for Markets and Policy Instruments," Discussion Papers dp-00-30-rev, Resources For the Future.
  6. Fullerton, Don & Wu, Wenbo, 1998. "Policies for Green Design," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 36(2), pages 131-148, September.
  7. Bevin Ashenmiller, 2009. "Cash Recycling, Waste Disposal Costs, and the Incomes of the Working Poor: Evidence from California," Land Economics, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 85(3), pages 539-551.
  8. Jenkins, Robin R. & Martinez, Salvador A. & Palmer, Karen & Podolsky, Michael J., 2003. "The determinants of household recycling: a material-specific analysis of recycling program features and unit pricing," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 45(2), pages 294-318, March.
  9. Don Fullerton & Ann Wolverton, 2000. "Two Generalizations of a Deposit-Refund System," NBER Working Papers 7505, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Hong Seonghoon & Adams Richard M. & Love H. Alan, 1993. "An Economic Analysis of Household Recycling of Solid Wastes: The Case of Portland, Oregon," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 25(2), pages 136-146, September.
  11. Palmer, Karen & Walls, Margaret & Sigman, Hilary, 1996. "The Cost of Reducing Municipal Solid Waste," Discussion Papers dp-96-35, Resources For the Future.
  12. Ino, Hiroaki, 2011. "Optimal environmental policy for waste disposal and recycling when firms are not compliant," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 62(2), pages 290-308, September.
  13. Don Fullerton & Thomas C. Kinnaman, 1993. "Garbage, Recycling, and Illicit Burning or Dumping," NBER Working Papers 4374, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. Palmer, Karen & Walls, Margaret, 1997. "Optimal policies for solid waste disposal Taxes, subsidies, and standards," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 65(2), pages 193-205, August.
  15. Timothy K. M. Beatty & Peter Berck & Jay P. Shimshack, 2007. "Curbside Recycling In The Presence Of Alternatives," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 45(4), pages 739-755, October.
  16. Hilary A. Sigman, 1995. "A Comparison of Public Policies for Lead Recycling," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 26(3), pages 452-478, Autumn.
  17. Margaret Walls & Paul Calcott, 2000. "Can Downstream Waste Disposal Policies Encourage Upstream "Design for Environment"?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(2), pages 233-237, May.
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