Curbside Recycling: Waste Resource or Waste of Resources?
In this paper, we estimate the social net benefits of curbside recycling. Benefits are estimated using survey data on household willingness to pay (WTP) from over 4,000 households across 40 western U.S. cities. We calibrate WTP for hypothetical bias using an experimental design that contrasts stated and revealed preferences. Cost estimates are compiled from previous studies by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Institute for Local Self Reliance, as well as from in-depth interviews with recycling coordinators in our sampled cities. Remarkably, we find that the estimated mean social net benefit of curbside recycling is almost exactly zero. Therefore, the decision of whether to implement or maintain a curbside recycling program (CRP) must be done on a city-by-city basis.
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