The disposal of municipal solid waste is believed to emit foul odor, threaten groundwater, and increase road congestion. As remote regional landfills have replaced local town dumps, these costs are no longer internalized by garbage-producing households or their municipalities. Instead, rural property owners located adjacent to large regional landfills and along the roadways accessing those landfills bear the external costs of garbage disposal. This paper uses a comprehensive nine-year panel data set of aggregated state data to empirically examine why 8,937 municipalities continue to operate costly recycling programs designed to reduce the external costs of garbage disposal.
Results suggest that local tastes for recycling drive municipal decisions. If household preferences for recycling are short lived, then we can expect a future decrease in the number of municipal recycling programs. Recent data indicate the number of recycling programs in operation in the U.S. has indeed fallen.
©2011 Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co. KG, Berlin/Boston