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How effective are current household recycling policies? Results from a national survey of U.S. households

Saphores, Jean-Daniel M., Nixon, Hilary
Resources, Conservation & Recycling 2014 v.92 pp. 1-10
African Americans, attitudes and opinions, data collection, glass, households, issues and policy, logit analysis, metals, national surveys, odds ratio, plastics, prices, recycling, socioeconomic factors, wastes, young adults, United States
This paper analyzes a unique dataset collected during a 2006 national survey of U.S. households to explore the effectiveness of common household recycling policies for metals, glass, and plastics: curbside recycling, drop-off recycling, deposit–refund systems (bottle bills), and marginal pricing for household waste. After estimating either generalized ordered logit or multinomial logit models, we find that the most important determinants of household recycling are people's attitudes toward recycling. Our results also suggest that omitting internal variables (perceived recycling obstacles and benefits as well as moral considerations) may bias policy coefficients. Socio-economic variables are typically not statistically significant, with the exceptions of young adults and of African Americans who tend to recycle less than others. Policies with the largest odds ratios are curbside recycling (which is further strengthened if recycling is mandatory), followed by the presence of drop-off collection centers nearby. Bottle bills are also statistically significant but their odds ratios are smaller, possibly because refunds are relatively small and typically do not change for years. Finally, marginal pricing appears to have a limited impact on recycling. These results suggest avenues for improving household recycling at a time when recycling rates appear to be plateauing.