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Better the devil you throw: Experience and support for pay-as-you-throw waste charges

Environmental Science & Policy
DOI: 10.1016/j.envsci.2013.11.007
  • Behavioural Environmental Economics
  • Pay-As-You-Throw
  • Pigouvian Taxes
  • Political Economy
  • Design
  • Ecology
  • Geography
  • Political Science


Abstract Environmental taxes have long been proposed as an efficient means of improving the fiscal solvency of governments, while at the same time correcting for environmental externalities. However, public support for environmental taxes is often low, making the implementation of these instruments politically challenging in some settings. Scholars have explored the reasons for this broad, negative attitude towards environmental taxes, especially since these taxes are by design supposed to be welfare-improving. But previous empirical analysis on this topic is sparse and limited in context. Here, we empirically analyze support for environmental taxes across four countries, using a household survey on environmental attitudes, behaviour and policy exposure conducted by OECD during 2011. The environmental tax we focus on is pay-as-you-throw (PAYT) charges for mixed waste collection. Looking at expressed levels of support for PAYT charges, we find that people who are exposed to such systems tend to be significantly more supportive of them. This indicates that ex ante public resistance to such schemes is likely to dissipate following their introduction, a pattern which is supported by other, anecdotal reports and by lab experiments with generic Pigouvian taxes which we summarize in the literature review.

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