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Policy Brief—The Effectiveness of Phosphate Bans in the United States

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  • David A. Keiser

Abstract

Nutrient pollution is one of the leading causes of declines in surface water quality both in the United States and globally. This article discusses three important issues that influence the effectiveness of recent U.S. policies that ban the use of phosphates in household and commercial products and, ultimately, these policies’ ability to improve water quality. First, the U.S. production of phosphates for household and commercial products and other industrial uses has fallen to less than 5 percent of total phosphate production in recent decades, with agricultural use accounting for the remaining 95 percent. Thus, current policies that target household and industrial uses over agriculture have limited ability to address the larger nutrient pollution problem. Second, the behavioral responses of consumers to variations in the spatial and temporal characteristics of these policies reduce their effectiveness because households can purchase products containing phosphates at different locations or at different times of the year. Third, the interactions of these policies with regulations at wastewater treatment facilities will determine the extent to which reductions in phosphate at the household and commercial levels will result in reductions in the amount of phosphates that are emitted into waterways.

Suggested Citation

  • David A. Keiser, 2020. "Policy Brief—The Effectiveness of Phosphate Bans in the United States," Review of Environmental Economics and Policy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 14(2), pages 331-338.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucp:renvpo:doi:10.1093/reep/reaa003
    DOI: 10.1093/reep/reaa003
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