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Recycling has been touted as a cost-effective mechanism for improving environmental quality and raising employment. Using county-level data from California between 2004 and 2017, this paper exploits plausibly exogenous changes in the exposure of households’ to hazardous waste recycling to identify the effects on potential environmental and economic outcomes. While a 10% rise in recycling per household is associated with a 0.28% and 0.94% improvement in air quality and decline in the number of unhealthy days in a year, recycling is associated with a rise in net energy generation and fuel consumption and no association with economic activity. Even though the potential environmental effects may be small, there is some evidence that households in zipcodes with higher housing values and population density value reductions in hazardous waste.

Keywords: Recycling and Conservation, Tiebout Sorting, Energy Consumption, Environmental Quality, Public Policy

JEL Classification: Q53, Q58, H41

Makridis, Christos, Is Recycling Effective? Evidence from California between 2004 and 2017 (July 18, 2018). Available at SSRN: or