The Learning Curve's Role in Explaining Household Curbside Recycling Rates

John McCollough
Mary Ellen Roesch

DOI: 10.2190/ES.31.4.c


This article asserts that the average household needs time to learn how to recycle common household materials once a recycling program has been put into place by the local municipality. Households must learn to sort waste efficiently and develop good recycling habits. This means learning when to recycle, what to recycle, and how to recycle. After these skills are learned the skills then need to be incorporated into the daily lifestyle of household members. The article tests this assertion by running an autoregressive model with household recycling as the dependent variable and recycling "lagged" as independent variables. Other independent variables which are common to the literature, such as education and community tenure, are used within the model as well. Monthly data was collected from waste disposal authorities during their first few months of operating a recycling program. The results presented in this article can enhance planning by community officials who are considering starting their own recycling programs. It will give them an idea as to how much time is needed before households become adept at recycling. Community officials can then better plan for the growth as they experience their own learning curve when dealing with the relatively new community service (i.e., collecting and marketing recycled products).

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