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The Cold Shiver of Not Giving Enough: On the Social Cost of Recycling Campaigns


  • Annegrete Bruvoll
  • Karine Nyborg


Governments sometimes try to increase individuals’ contributions to public goods through appeals to consumer responsibility, rather than by economic incentives, for example in recycling campaigns. Using standard consumer theory, one would hardly expect such campaigns to work at all; but if consumers are motivated by norms, appeals may work through changing consumers’ perception of the normrequirement.However, increasing voluntary contributions through appeals may come at a social cost. The reason is that appeals work through imposing a heavier (perceived) responsibility on consumers. This represents a welfare loss, which is not necessarily outweighed by “warm glow” benefits.

Suggested Citation

  • Annegrete Bruvoll & Karine Nyborg, 2004. "The Cold Shiver of Not Giving Enough: On the Social Cost of Recycling Campaigns," Land Economics, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 80(4).
  • Handle: RePEc:uwp:landec:v:80:y:2004:i:4:p539-549

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Annegrete Bruvoll & Karine Nyborg, 2002. "On the value of households' recycling efforts," Discussion Papers 316, Statistics Norway, Research Department.
    2. Fullerton, Don & Kinnaman, Thomas C, 1996. "Household Responses to Pricing Garbage by the Bag," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(4), pages 971-984, September.
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    5. George L. Van Houtven & Glenn E. Morris, 1999. "Household Behavior under Alternative Pay-as-You-Throw Systems for Solid Waste Disposal," Land Economics, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 75(4), pages 515-537.
    6. Andreoni, James, 1990. "Impure Altruism and Donations to Public Goods: A Theory of Warm-Glow Giving?," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 100(401), pages 464-477, June.
    7. Tiller, Kelly & Jakus, Paul M. & Park, William M., 1997. "Household Willingness To Pay For Dropoff Recycling," Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics, Western Agricultural Economics Association, vol. 22(02), December.
    8. Medin, Hege & Nyborg, Karine & Bateman, Ian, 2001. "The assumption of equal marginal utility of income: how much does it matter?," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 36(3), pages 397-411, March.
    9. Nyborg, Karine & Rege, Mari, 2003. "Does Public Policy Crowd Out Private Contributions to Public Goods," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 115(3-4), pages 397-418, June.
    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.
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    Cited by:

    1. Abbott, Andrew & Nandeibam, Shasikanta & O'Shea, Lucy, 2013. "Recycling: Social norms and warm-glow revisited," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 90(C), pages 10-18.
    2. Eerola, Essi & Huhtala, Anni, 2005. "Promoting Demand for Organic Food Under Preference and Income Heterogeneity," 2005 International Congress, August 23-27, 2005, Copenhagen, Denmark 24664, European Association of Agricultural Economists.
    3. Shigeru Matsumoto, 2014. "Spouses’ time allocation to pro-environmental activities: who is saving the environment at home?," Review of Economics of the Household, Springer, vol. 12(1), pages 159-176, March.
    4. Interis, Matthew G. & Haab, Timothy C., 2014. "Overheating Willingness to Pay: Who Gets Warm Glow and What It Means for Valuation," Agricultural and Resource Economics Review, Cambridge University Press, vol. 43(02), pages 266-278, August.
    5. Göran Finnveden & Tomas Ekvall & Yevgeniya Arushanyan & Mattias Bisaillon & Greger Henriksson & Ulrika Gunnarsson Östling & Maria Ljunggren Söderman & Jenny Sahlin & Åsa Stenmarck & Johan Sundberg & J, 2013. "Policy Instruments towards a Sustainable Waste Management," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 5(3), pages 1-41, February.
    6. Gorm Kipperberg & Douglas Larson, 2012. "Heterogeneous Preferences for Community Recycling Programs," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 53(4), pages 577-604, December.
    7. Ek, Claes, 2015. "Prosocial Behavior and Policy Spillovers: A Multi-Activity Approach," Working Papers 2015:26, Lund University, Department of Economics, revised 11 Sep 2017.
    8. Mikołaj Czajkowski & Nick Hanley & Karine Nyborg, 2014. "Social norms, morals and self-interest as determinants of pro-environment behaviour," Working Papers 2014-17, Faculty of Economic Sciences, University of Warsaw.
    9. Essi Eerola & Anni Huhtala, 2008. "Voting for Environmental Policy Under Income and Preference Heterogeneity," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 90(1), pages 256-266.
    10. Brekke, Kjell Arne & Nyborg, Karine, 2010. "Selfish bakers, caring nurses? A model of work motivation," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 75(3), pages 377-394, September.
    11. Nyborg, Karine, 2011. "I don't want to hear about it: Rational ignorance among duty-oriented consumers," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 79(3), pages 263-274, August.
    12. Brekke, Kjell Arne & Kipperberg, Gorm & Nyborg, Karine, 2009. "Reluctant Recyclers: Social Interaction in Responsibility Ascription," Memorandum 16/2007, Oslo University, Department of Economics.
    13. Kallbekken, Steffen & Westskog, Hege & Mideksa, Torben K., 2010. "Appeals to social norms as policy instruments to address consumption externalities," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 39(4), pages 447-454, August.
    14. Heller, Marit H. & Vatn, Arild, 2017. "The divisive and disruptive effect of a weight-based waste fee," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 131(C), pages 275-285.
    15. Blasch, Julia & Ohndorf, Markus, 2015. "Altruism, moral norms and social approval: Joint determinants of individual offset behavior," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 116(C), pages 251-260.
    16. Interis, Matthew G. & Haab, Timothy C., 2011. "Woodsy the optimal owl: Environmental campaigns, norms, and implications for public goods policy," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 70(12), pages 2327-2333.
    17. Thomas Aronsson & Tomas Sjögren, 2010. "Optimal income taxation and social norms in the labor market," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 17(1), pages 67-89, February.
    18. Bohara, Alok K. & Caplan, Arthur J. & Grijalva, Therese, 2007. "The effect of experience and quantity-based pricing on the valuation of a curbside recycling program," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 64(2), pages 433-443, December.
    19. repec:sss:wpaper:201403 is not listed on IDEAS
    20. Campbell, Benjamin L. & Khachatryan, Hayk & Behe, Bridget K. & Hall, Charles & Dennis, Jennifer, 2014. "Crunch the Can or Throw the Bottle? Effect of “Bottle Deposit Laws” and Municipal Recycling Programs," 2014 Annual Meeting, July 27-29, 2014, Minneapolis, Minnesota 170379, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
    21. Massimiliano Agovino & Mariaconcetta Casaccia & Alessandro Crociata, 2017. "Effectiveness and efficiency of European Regional Development Fund on separate waste collection: evidence from Italian regions by a stochastic frontier approach," Economia Politica: Journal of Analytical and Institutional Economics, Springer;Fondazione Edison, vol. 34(1), pages 105-137, April.
    22. Shigeru Matsumoto, 2014. "The Opportunity Cost of Pro-Environmental Activities: Spending Time to Promote the Environment," Journal of Family and Economic Issues, Springer, vol. 35(1), pages 119-130, March.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D6 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics
    • Q24 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Renewable Resources and Conservation - - - Land


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