[GRRN] Economic Incentives for Waste Reduction & Recycling

Wed, 27 Oct 1999 11:19:23 EDT

The environmental community may be interested in a provocative result from a
study conducted by Sound Resource Management (SRMG) on success factors in
attaining low disposal and high diversion among cities, including Seattle, in
King County, Washington. Many of these cities have been using aggressive
economic incentives and programs such as curbside recycling to stimulate
waste reduction and diversion for most of this decade, long enough for these
methods to achieve their full impacts on behavior.

The remarkable result of statistical analysis on disposal and diversion
quantities per residential household is that two economic incentives - (1)
embedding both curbside recycling and curbside yard debris costs in garbage
fees, and (2) charging at least as much for additional cans of garbage as is
charged for the first can (as opposed to, for example, charging just 35% to
50% of first can cost for the second can, the so-called cost-of-service
garbage fee) - increases reduction and recycling rates by 25 percentage points
, holding a variety of other important factors constant, such as median
household income, yard size for occupied residences, and the absolute level
of garbage fees.

This result shows that communities can exert substantial influence on solid
waste disposal just through use of economic incentives. Less disposal means
lower use of virgin materials (e.g., less drilling for oil, cutting of trees,
mining for minerals), which in turn means lower impacts on ecological
habitats (for humans and all other species, e.g., cleaner air and water).

Further information on this study is available in SRMG's online newsletter The
Monthly UnEconomist at <www.SoundResource.com> or <www.ZeroWaste.com>.

Dr. Jeffrey Morris
Sound Resource Management
1477 Elliott Avenue West
Seattle, WA 98119-1304

206-352-9566 fax
ZeroWaste@aol.com, or info@ZeroWaste.com
www.SoundResource.com, www.Yelmworms.com, and www.ZeroWaste.com