Recycling Behaviour

by Caitlin Douglas

Last week I received a thought provoking reply to my Green Consumerism post which sparked my interest into why people decide to take pro-environmental actions.  In a 2003 Area article, Stewart Barr discusses what encourages people to engage in environmental actions around the home.  The first factor is whether concern exists about the environment which is determined by a person’s social and environmental values. For example, someone who is altruistic and open to change is more likely to be pro-environmental. Situational factors, such as access to services, and psychological variables, such as whether someone gains satisfaction in environmental action, then combine with the environmental concern to determine a person’s behaviour. This article shows that focus should be given to situational factors and psychological variables as these two factors have a tremendous ability to shape a person’s actions.

Interestingly, Barr reports that social pressure is very effective in changing environmental behaviour.  For example, curb-side recycling generally has more success than other methods of recycling because of the social pressure for people to ‘put their bin out’. On Friday, the BBC reported that Anglesey council topped Wales’ recycling league and this was attributed to implementation of a well designed and researched service. Well done Anglesey! It would be interesting to know what approach they used.

Read the journal article: Barr, S. 2003. Strategies for sustainability: citizens and responsible environmental behaviour. Area, 35(3):227-240.

Read the BBC news article:Anglesey council top of recycling league

1 comment

  1. My thoughts are that you can drill down even deeper than comparing the behaviour of someone who is altruistic to that of someone who is resistant to change.
    There is a debate to be had which revolves round intrinsic and extrinsic enviromental behaviour. Someone who is extrinsically motivated may well be a person who is influenced by neighbours who are conscientious in segregating waste for collection, so although appearing to be ‘altristic’ may well just be wanting to ‘keep up with the Jones’s. Whereas the ‘true’ altruistic concerned enviromentalist will be unconcerned about peer pressure from the ‘Jones’s’. So it seems to me a simple matrix identifying different personality’s against extrinsic and intrinsic motivational factors would identify useful strategies in the encouragement of common sense environmental practice.

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