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Waste, Recycling, and "Design for Environment": Roles for Markets and Policy Instruments

  • Walls, Margaret


    (Resources for the Future)

  • Calcott, Paul

Several studies that have solved for optimal solid waste policy instruments have suggested that transaction costs may often prevent the working of recycling markets. In this paper, we explicitly incorporate such costs into a general equilibrium model of production, consumption, recycling, and disposal. Specifically, we assume that consumers have access to both recycling without payment and recycling with payment but that the latter option comes with transaction costs. Producers choose material and nonmaterial inputs to produce a consumer product, and they also choose design attributes of that product—its weight and degree of recyclability. We find that the policy instruments that yield a social optimum in this setting need to vary with the degree of recyclability of products. Moreover, they need to be set to ensure that recycling markets do not operate—that is, that all recycling takes place without an exchange of money between recyclers and consumers. We argue that implementing such a policy would be difficult in practice. We then solve for a simpler set of instruments that implement a constrained (second-best) optimum. We find the results in this setting more encouraging: a modest disposal fee—less than the Pigouvian fee—combined with a common deposit-refund applied to all products will yield the constrained optimum. Moreover, this set of constrained optimal instruments is robust to the possibility that consumers imperfectly sort used products into trash and recyclables.

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Paper provided by Resources For the Future in its series Discussion Papers with number dp-00-30-rev.

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Date of creation: 01 Dec 2002
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:rff:dpaper:dp-00-30-rev
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  1. Linderhof, Vincent & Kooreman, Peter & Allers, Maarten & Wiersma, Doede, 2001. "Weight-based pricing in the collection of household waste: the Oostzaan case," Resource and Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 23(4), pages 359-371, October.
  2. 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.
  3. de Bovenberg, A Lans & Mooij, Ruud A, 1994. "Environmental Levies and Distortionary Taxation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(4), pages 1085-89, September.
  4. Fullerton Don & Kinnaman Thomas C., 1995. "Garbage, Recycling, and Illicit Burning or Dumping," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 29(1), pages 78-91, July.
  5. Macauley, Molly & Walls, Margaret & Anderson, Soren, 2002. "The Organization of Local Solid Waste and Recycling Markets: Public and Private Provision of Services," Discussion Papers dp-02-35-rev, Resources For the Future.
  6. Walls, Margaret & Palmer, Karen, 2001. "Upstream Pollution, Downstream Waste Disposal, and the Design of Comprehensive Environmental Policies," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 41(1), pages 94-108, January.
  7. Marie Lynn Miranda & Jess W. Everett & Daniel Blume & Barbeau A. Roy, 1994. "Market-based incentives and residential municipal solid waste," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 13(4), pages 681-698.
  8. 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.
  9. Fullerton, Don & Wu, Wenbo, 1998. "Policies for Green Design," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 36(2), pages 131-148, September.
  10. Thomas Eichner & Rüdiger Pethig, 1999. "Product Design and efficient Management of Recycling and Waste Treatment," Volkswirtschaftliche Diskussionsbeiträge 76-99, Universität Siegen, Fakultät Wirtschaftswissenschaften, Wirtschaftsinformatik und Wirtschaftsrecht.
  11. Palmer, Karen & Martinez, Salvador & Jenkins, Robin & Podolsky, Michael, 1999. "The Determinants of Household Recycling: A Material Specific Analysis of Unit Pricing and Recycling Program Attributes," Discussion Papers dp-99-41-rev, Resources For the Future.
  12. Kaplow, Louis, 1995. "A Model of the Optimal Complexity of Legal Rules," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 11(1), pages 150-63, April.
  13. repec:ltr:wpaper:1997.11 is not listed on IDEAS
  14. Choe, Chongwoo & Fraser, Iain, 1999. "An Economic Analysis of Household Waste Management," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 38(2), pages 234-246, September.
  15. Louis Kaplow, 1992. "A Model of the Optimal Complexity of Rules," NBER Working Papers 3958, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. Chongwoo Choe & Iain Fraser, 2001. "On the Flexibility of Optimal Policies for Green Design," Environmental & Resource Economics, European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 18(4), pages 367-371, April.
  17. 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.
  18. Don Fullerton & Ann Wolverton, 1997. "The Case for a Two-Part Instrument: Presumptive Tax and Environmental Subsidy," NBER Working Papers 5993, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  19. 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.
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