ABSTRACT

If trash disposal is free (or underpriced), people-and “the market”—will recycletoo little. When it is free and recycling is not rewarded, it is just as easy, if noteasier, for people to throw away rather than recycle. When markets fail, there is an arguable case for public action. And Americans have taken action. Recycling operations, usually mandated and subsidized, now blanket U.S. urban places. The question we explore in this chapter is whether the social benefits of these recycling programs are worth it, relative to their social costs.