Tuesday 18 February at 12.00 AM, BASE, Milan.
Title: The benefits of food waste sorting. Behavioral evidence from a waste management policy
Solid waste management is a pressuring issue in the global agenda. Faced with increasing volumes of waste production, municipal governments are trying different measures to reduce them and incentivize recycling, with mixed results. We evaluate the effects of a policy that targets the adoption of curbside food waste separation. We find that more than 80% of households engage in food sorting, and we estimate a behavioral spillover to a non-targeted outcome: production of total household waste. We separately analyze the effects of (i) information about the benefits of organic waste recycling and (ii) the adoption of the organic waste collection technology. Using high-frequency longitudinal administrative data in the Swedish municipality of Partille, our empirical strategy relies on a staggered implementation of the policy across different areas. This allows us to control for unobservable household characteristics, for the seasonality of waste production, and for the endogenous choice of enrolling in the curbside collection system by including household and time-specific fixed effects and instrumenting enrollment with the bins distribution timing. We find that information generates a reduction of waste production net of packaging recycling by 1.7 kg/month on average per household (5.6% of the mean), while curbside food separation leads to an additional decrease by 1.2 kg/month (4%). However, a significant effect lasts only for three months. Our findings can be rationalized in light of a framework in which the policy produces a \cue” of increased attention towards pro-environmental contributions and agents pursue it across multiple waste-related behaviors.