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How Local Governments Structure Contracts with Private Firms: Economic Theory and Evidence on Solid Waste and Recycling Contracts

  • Walls, Margaret

    ()

    (Resources for the Future)

Solid waste management services are contracted out to private firms in many U.S. communities. Household waste collection, transport, and disposal are relatively straightforward services to define within the terms of a contract. The addition of recycling, however, significantly complicates matters. How should contracts be structured to provide incentives for recycling? Who should own key facilities, such as recyclable materials processing facilities? Should a separate contract for processing and sale of materials be used, or should these services be provided by government employees or purely private markets? These questions are addressed in this study using the principal-agent framework and the theory of incomplete contracts in economics. I explain stylized facts in the industry, including facts about asset ownership, and look in detail at contracts used in seven communities that have achieved high rates of waste diversion and recycling.

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Paper provided by Resources For the Future in its series Discussion Papers with number dp-03-62.

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Date of creation: 01 Dec 2003
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Handle: RePEc:rff:dpaper:dp-03-62
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  1. Andrei Shleifer, 1998. "State Versus Private Ownership," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1841, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
  2. Bajari, Patrick & Tadelis, Steven, 2001. "Incentives versus Transaction Costs: A Theory of Procurement Contracts," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 32(3), pages 387-407, Autumn.
  3. Sanford J Grossman & Oliver D Hart, 2001. "An Analysis of the Principal-Agent Problem," Levine's Working Paper Archive 391749000000000339, David K. Levine.
  4. Nelson, Michael A, 1997. "Municipal Government Approaches to Service Delivery: An Analysis from a Transactions Cost Perspective," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 35(1), pages 82-96, January.
  5. Ley, Eduardo & Macauley, Molly K. & Salant, Stephen W., 2002. "Spatially and Intertemporally Efficient Waste Management: The Costs of Interstate Trade Restrictions," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 43(2), pages 188-218, March.
  6. Hart, Oliver & Shleifer, Andrei & Vishny, Robert W, 1997. "The Proper Scope of Government: Theory and an Application to Prisons," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 112(4), pages 1127-61, November.
  7. Klein, Benjamin & Crawford, Robert G & Alchian, Armen A, 1978. "Vertical Integration, Appropriable Rents, and the Competitive Contracting Process," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 21(2), pages 297-326, October.
  8. Abhijit Banerjee & Esther Duflo, 1999. "Reputation Effects and the Limits of Contracting: A Study of the Indian Software Industry," Working papers 99-14, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  9. Dubin, Jeffrey A. & Navarro, Peter., 1987. "How Markets for Impure Public Goods Organize: The Case of Household Refuse Collection," Working Papers 633, California Institute of Technology, Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences.
  10. Holmstrom, Bengt & Milgrom, Paul, 1991. "Multitask Principal-Agent Analyses: Incentive Contracts, Asset Ownership, and Job Design," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 7(0), pages 24-52, Special I.
  11. Domberger, Simon & Jensen, Paul, 1997. "Contracting Out by the Public Sector: Theory, Evidence, Prospects," Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 13(4), pages 67-78, Winter.
  12. Ross, Stephen A, 1973. "The Economic Theory of Agency: The Principal's Problem," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 63(2), pages 134-39, May.
  13. Oliver Hart & Bengt Holmstrom, 1986. "The Theory of Contracts," Working papers 418, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
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