Discussion Paper

Policies to Encourage Recycling and "Design for Environment": What to Do When Markets are Missing

Jun 1, 2000 | Paul Calcott, Margaret A. Walls


Several studies have shown the efficiency of both a Pigovian tax on waste disposal and a deposit-refund instrument, that is a combined output tax and recycling subsidy. The efficiency of these instruments, however, critically depends on households being paid for recycling. In reality, although most households have access to curbside recycling services, they are not paid for the items they set out at the curb. All items placed in a recycling bin are thus of equal value to a household, and there is no incentive for producers to make their products any more recyclable than what is necessary to be eligible for the bin. This paper characterizes the constrained (second-best) optimum that exists with the missing recycling market and solves for a modified deposit-refund instrument that will achieve the constrained optimum.