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Faculty & Research


The Implications of Recycling Technology Choice on Extended Producer Responsibility

Journal Article
The authors study recycling technology choice, a critical factor that has received little attention in the context of extended producer responsibility, and its interaction with product design‐for‐recycling in driving the environmental benefits of recycling systems. Collective recycling systems have long been criticized for restricting the environmental benefits of extended producer responsibility because of free riding issues among producers, which can undermine incentives for product design‐for‐recycling. The authors revisit and refine this assertion by analyzing the interaction between recycling technology and product design‐for‐recycling choices. The authors develop game‐theoretic models where producers and processors decide on product design‐for‐recycling and recycling technology choices, respectively. The authors then compare the equilibrium benefits of recycling in collective and individual systems. The key result in this paper is that when recycling technology choice is taken into account, collective recycling systems can lead to higher environmental and economic benefits than individual recycling systems. This is because collective recycling systems provide stronger incentives for recycling technology improvements. In turn, these improvements can help overcome the drawbacks associated with inferior product design‐for‐recycling outcomes caused by free riding concerns among producers in collective recycling systems. In light of these results, the authors posit that an exclusive focus on product design‐for‐recycling to assess the environmental benefits of extended producer responsibility‐based recycling systems may need scrutiny. Producers and policy makers may need to evaluate recycling systems with respect to the incentives they provide for both product design‐for‐recycling and recycling technology improvements.

Professor of Technology and Operations Management