Heller & Vatn: The divisive and disruptive effect of a weight-based waste fee

Abstract: The ability of economic incentives to promote environmentally friendly behavior has been questioned in the literature. Most studies investigating this issue are grounded in the agent-based rational choice model. The aim of this study is to expand our insights by applying an alternative theoretical framework combining elements from classical institutional economics and self-determination theory to study incentives for waste sorting. The analysis is based on data from a Norwegian municipality, Ulstein, which introduced and later terminated a differentiated waste fee. There are three main findings. First, the important role of normative motivation for sorting household waste is confirmed. Second, the economic incentive had a divisive effect on the motivation to sort household waste. Perceived autonomy linked to fundamental values about environmental concern seems to play an important role in explaining why half the sample reports no extra efforts in sorting waste as a response to the economic incentive. The other half was influenced by the external logic given to them (i.e., to save costs and hence report increased motivation to sort household waste). Finally, an increased practice of illegal waste disposal was observed as a response to the differentiated waste fee.

Keywords: Household waste fee schemes;Classical institutional theory;Self-determination theory

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Published 1. December 2016 - 11:46 - Updated 23. May 2017 - 19:11