Municipalities everywhere are coping with increasing amounts of solid waste and need urgently to formulate efficient and sustainable solutions to the problem. This study examines the use of economic incentives in municipal waste management. Specifically, we address the issue of recycling, if and when this waste management option is—on social welfare grounds—a preferred solution.
A number of studies have recently assessed the monetary value of the externalities of alternative solid waste management options. In the present context, these subsidies could be interpreted as the implicit value of the benefits from reducing environmental externalities associated with landfilling as perceived by local government authorities. We surmise that the difference between mean households’ willingness to pay (WTP) for recycling services, via the purchase of a subsidized waste disposal facility, and the above (proxy) value of externalities reflects the difference between private and public perception regarding the negative externality associated with landfilling. We believe that this information is useful in determining the level of subsidization needed (if at all) to sustain any recycling program.
The study is unique in the sense that its conclusions are based on revealed household behavior when faced with increased disposal costs, as well as information on WTP responses in hypothetical but related (and, therefore, familiar) scenarios. The article also explores the influence of the subsidization schemes on recycling rates. It was found that with low levels of effort needed to participate in a curbside recycling program, households’ participation rates are mainly influenced by economic variables and age, and households are willing to pay a higher price for the recycling scheme. When the required effort level is relatively high, however, households would pay a lower price, and the rate is influenced mainly by their environmental commitment and by economic considerations. We found that in both cases a subsidy would be required in order to achieve an efficient level of recycling. The median price that households are willing to pay for recycling devices is found to be about NIS 370 (New Israeli Shekel, approximately $90).