The Roosevelt Project
Hilary Sigman, June 1992
Policies that encourage recycling may be used to reduce environmental costs from waste disposal when direct restrictions on disposal are difficult to enforce. Four recycling policies have been advanced: (i) taxes on the use of virgin materials; (ii) deposit/refund programs; (iii) subsidies to recycled material production; and (iv) recycled content standards. This study analyzes the structure of these policies and ranks them in terms of the private costs necessary to achieve a given reduction in disposal. the policies are then examined in the empirical context of the recycling of lead from automobile batteries. Elasticities for primary and secondary lead supply and demand are estimated in order to simulate the effects of lead recycling programs. The results suggest that price-based policy mechanisms can be successful in increasing lead recovery and that the difference in efficiency between the four approaches is substantial.