The Impact of Recycling on the Long-Run Stock of Trees
Series/Report no.Cahier de recherche #2009-10
Interest in recycling of forest products has grown in recent years, one of the goals being to conserve the stock of trees or possibly increase it to compensate for positive externalities generated by the forest and neglected by the market. This paper explores the issue as to whether recycling is an appropriate measure to attain such a goal. We do this by considering the problem of the private owner of an area of land, who, acting as a price taker, decides how to allocate his land over time between forestry and some other use, and at what age to harvest the forest area chosen. Once the forest is cut, he makes a new land allocation decision and replants. He does so indefinitely, in a Faustmann-like framework. The wood from the harvest is transformed into a final product which is partly recycled into a substitute for the virgin wood, so that past output affects the current price. We show that in such a context, increasing the rate of recycling will result in less area being devoted to forestry. It will also have the effect of increasing the harvest age of the forest, as long as the planting cost is positive. The net effect on the flow of virgin wood being harvested to supply the market will as a result be ambiguous. The main point however is that recycling will result in a smaller, not a larger, stock of trees in the long run. It would therefore be best to resort to other means if the goal is to increase the stock of trees.