Stepwise investment in circular plastics under the presence of policy uncertainty

Loic De Weerdt*, Tine Compernolle, Verena Hagspiel, Peter M. Kort, Carlos Oliveira

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


The use of recycled plastics is critical in the transition to a circular economy. However, for certain types of plastics, the recycling process is economically unviable. Government-driven incentives, such as a policy imposing a minimum fraction of recycled plastics to be used in production processes of plastic goods, offer an exit from this impasse. In this paper, we study how a firm's investment behavior is affected by policy uncertainty governing the introduction of such a regulatory measure. Specifically, we adopt a real option approach to study the two-step investment of a firm in its transition to the use of recycled plastics. A clear trade-off can be distinguished. On the one hand, investing early causes unnecessary profit losses before the policy implementation. On the other hand, a lack of investment leads to market exclusion after the policy implementation. For our case study on the use of recycled polyethylene, we find that firms plan their first investment step, so that the timing of the second investment step approximates their projection on the policy implementation time. Moreover, we find that the firm's value is maximized when the capacity of the first investment is smaller than the capacity of the second investment.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)413-443
Number of pages31
JournalEnvironmental & Resource Economics
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2022


  • Circular economy
  • Real option analysis
  • Recycled plastics
  • Policy uncertainty
  • Public pressure
  • Stepwise investment


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