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A Kuznets Curve for Recycling



The paper aims at extending the debate on Environmental Kuznets Curves to the case of non-renewable resources and to discuss the driving forces that might give rise to EKC's in this case. The paper at hand deviates from the standard EKC analysis in two ways: First, mostly EKC's are analyzed for flow variables. In this paper we argue that EKC's may very well arise for certain stock variables like minerals or waste. Second, most papers that provide a theoretical foundation for EKC's focus on assumptions like technological anomalies (e.g. increasing returns) or technological switches. We offer an alternative explanation by showing that EKC's might arise simply due to the combination of recycling and the rising scarcity of materials. It is shown that an EKC for non-renewables might emerge during the transition to the long-run balanced growth path. Whether or not an EKC arises depends e.g. on initial conditions, but also on preferences and technology. The assumptions made about the ability of recycling firms to internalize the in- terrelation between recycling decisions today and the future availability of recyclable waste matter with respect to the prerequisites for an EKC and the speed of conver- gence. Internalization furthermore implies that an economy can be caught in a poverty trap, i.e. it might not be able to converge to the long-run growth equilibrium if the initial endowment with resources and capital is too low.

Suggested Citation

  • Karen Pittel, 2006. "A Kuznets Curve for Recycling," CER-ETH Economics working paper series 06/52, CER-ETH - Center of Economic Research (CER-ETH) at ETH Zurich.
  • Handle: RePEc:eth:wpswif:06-52

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Huhtala, Anni, 1999. "Optimizing production technology choices: conventional production vs. recycling," Resource and Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 21(1), pages 1-18, January.
    2. Grimaud, Andre & Rouge, Luc, 2003. "Non-renewable resources and growth with vertical innovations: optimum, equilibrium and economic policies," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 45(2, Supple), pages 433-453, March.
    3. Grimaud, Andre & Rouge, Luc, 2005. "Polluting non-renewable resources, innovation and growth: welfare and environmental policy," Resource and Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 27(2), pages 109-129, June.
    4. Sjak Smulders & Lucas Bretschger & Hannes Egli, 2005. "Economic growth and the diffusion of clean technologies : explaining environmental Kuznets," CER-ETH Economics working paper series 05/42, CER-ETH - Center of Economic Research (CER-ETH) at ETH Zurich.
    5. Kuhn, Thomas & Pittel, Karen & Schulz, Thomas, 2003. "Recycling for sustainability - A long run perspective?," Munich Reprints in Economics 19484, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
    6. Schou, Poul, 2002. " When Environmental Policy Is Superfluous: Growth and Polluting Resources," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 104(4), pages 605-620, December.
    7. Mainwaring, Lynn, 1995. "Primary resource use and voluntary recycling schemes: Dynamic issues in a global context," Resource and Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 17(4), pages 341-356, December.
    8. Poul Schou, 2000. "Polluting Non-Renewable Resources and Growth," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 16(2), pages 211-227, June.
    9. Christian Scholz & Georg Ziemes, 1999. "Exhaustible Resources, Monopolistic Competition, and Endogenous Growth," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 13(2), pages 169-185, March.
    10. Brunner, Martin & Strulik, Holger, 2002. "Solution of perfect foresight saddlepoint problems: a simple method and applications," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 26(5), pages 737-753, May.
    11. Christian Groth & Poul Schou, 2002. "Can non-renewable resources alleviate the knife-edge character of endogenous growth?," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 54(3), pages 386-411, July.
    12. Karen Pittel & Amigues Jean-Pierre & Thomas Kuhn, 2005. "Endogenous growth and recycling : a material balance approach," CER-ETH Economics working paper series 05/37, CER-ETH - Center of Economic Research (CER-ETH) at ETH Zurich.
    13. Andreoni, James & Levinson, Arik, 2001. "The simple analytics of the environmental Kuznets curve," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 80(2), pages 269-286, May.
    14. Thomas Kuhn & Karen Pittel & Thomas Schulz, 2003. "Recycling for sustainability - a long run perspective?," International Journal of Global Environmental Issues, Inderscience Enterprises Ltd, vol. 3(3), pages 339-355.
    15. Di Vita, Giuseppe, 2001. "Technological change, growth and waste recycling," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 23(5), pages 549-567, September.
    16. Klaus Conrad, 1999. "Resource and Waste Taxation in the Theory of the Firm with Recycling Activities," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 14(2), pages 217-242, September.
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    Cited by:

    1. Pittel, Karen & Amigues, Jean-Pierre & Kuhn, Thomas, 2010. "Recycling under a material balance constraint," Resource and Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 32(3), pages 379-394, August.
    2. Massimiliano Mazzanti & Roberto Zoboli, 2008. "Waste Generation, Incineration and Landfill Diversion. De-coupling Trends, Socio-Economic Drivers and Policy Effectiveness in the EU," Working Papers 2008.94, Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei.

    More about this item


    non-renewable resources; recycling; transitional growth; Environmental Kuznets Curve;

    JEL classification:

    • Q32 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Nonrenewable Resources and Conservation - - - Exhaustible Resources and Economic Development
    • Q53 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Air Pollution; Water Pollution; Noise; Hazardous Waste; Solid Waste; Recycling
    • O4 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity
    • O13 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Agriculture; Natural Resources; Environment; Other Primary Products

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