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What Are the Implications of Recycling Technology Choice on Environmental Benefits of Recycling?


Luyi Gui, University of California - Irvine
Morvarid Rahmani, Georgia Institute of Technology
Atalay Atasu, Georgia Institute of Technology

Research Questions Addressed

How does the interaction between choices of recycling technology and product design for recycling affect the environmental benefit generated by recycling?

When are collective recycling systems more efficient than individual recycling systems?

Primary Findings

Collective recycling systems have long been criticized for restricting the environmental benefits of extended producer responsibility because of free-riding issues among producers. This study revisits and refines this assertion and shows that when recycling technology choice is taken into account, collective recycling systems can lead to higher environmental benefits than individual recycling systems.

The superior performance of the collective recycling systems is due to the stronger incentives they provide for recycling technology improvements. In turn, these improvements can help overcome the environmental drawbacks associated with inferior product design-for-recycling outcomes caused by free-riding concerns among producers.