The Judgment of Garbage: End-of-pipe Treatment and Waste Reduction




Many scholars and practitioners assume that waste reduction occurs less regularly in the presence of end-of-pipe waste treatment, that is, treatment of waste at the point of discharge to the environment. Drawing analogy to theories of organizational and operational design, scholars theorize that end-of-pipe treatments reduce both the incentive and ability to decrease production waste. Lack of empirical evidence and the existence of an opposing theory, however, suggest a need for deeper empirical analysis. Using a panel of data from US manufacturing establishments to measure its effects, we find that end-of-pipe waste treatment is positively associated with waste reduction. For purposes of theory, our research reveals the limits of analogical reasoning to inform theory and suggests the need for an endemic theory of waste treatment.