Creeping up on us is a pay by weight scheme for household waste collection. Im assuming here that most people think that reducing waste overall and increasing recycling are Good Things. This development has seemingly gone under the radar of many, and when implemented from July will no doubt be a shock to the system. Allegations of massive charges have spurred a government scarred by the water debacle to threaten capping charges, which in turn raises the possibility of companies pulling out. So what do we know about the economics of waste collection?
The Journal of Economic Surveys has, quite conveniently, just published a paper ($), on this issue. Some stylised facts from this survey of dozens and dozens of papers…
- Pay by weight has a massive, longterm and continuing effect on the total amount of waste produced. It works.
- More frequent collection results in more waste
- Bigger bins, more recycled waste and less waste
- Its not clear that direct (municipality) collection needs to be more effective than delegated (privatised) collection
- People are more willing to pay money for recycling and additional sorting than to spend time on it directly
- Older, more longer term resident and higher income households prefer more complete separation ( green, waste and recyclables) than single unsorted.
- Nudges, properly constructed, can work. Letting people know their performance in waste terms vs a social group results in lower waste and higher recycling. But intrinsic motivations probably matter more, so education and information matter.
So : reduce, reuse, recycle. Im off at the weekend to buy a compost bin or a wormery.