Plastics, Incentives, and Nudge : the U.S.'s Response to China's National Sword Policy
All five subtropical gyres- the ring-like systems of ocean current- are now referred to as "trash vortices," or "trash islands." This is due to the fact that much of the waste produced globally finds its way to the ocean where the currents carry and concentrate it at these gyres. The prevailing material found in these areas is plastic, evidently, since the world has become increasingly addicted to the convenient, yet environmentally detrimental, characteristics of the material. The United States is one of the top waste-generating countries in the world, especially of plastic, and is currently suffering a slowdown in the waste management industry. China, the U.S.'s main customer for recycled waste, imposed a stringent policy on recycled waste imports, forcing the U.S. to assimilate, or allocate to other nations, the volumes- 70% of U.S. recycled waste- that it used to process. While both the consumer and producer play a role in waste management, the following study focuses on the responsibility of local government and end-users in establishing mechanisms that promote recycling practices in order to keep recyclable waste, namely plastics, from contributing to the degradation of the environment. Government regulations are the primary entities responsible for encouraging certain attitudes and behaviors for the benefit of the governed collective. The main mechanism that governments use for policy making are monetary incentives. This is possibly due to the economic theory assumption that everyone is a rational individual that makes decisions based on cost benefit analysis. However, the following study proposes that the irrational side of the individual- the brain's automatic system- is a critical entity in most decision making. Nudge theory suggests a number of key factors that trigger the attention of the automatic system into abiding a desired behavior.
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