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Waste Reduction

Waste Reduction Behaviors at Home, at Work, and on Holiday

Although many claim to reuse their household waste, implementation of sustainable waste practices at workplaces and in other settings (particularly when it comes to holidays) is generally less. The ability to create sustainable behavior (including, however, moving beyond recycling) in a variety of settings remains a major problem for researchers and policymakers. The Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB) has been applied to a range of environmentally-friendly behaviors. However, the relative importance of the model’s predictors has not yet been explored across a range of contexts.

We test the TPB across work (laboratory as well as office) as well as home and holiday contexts and determine if the consistency across different contexts is an indication of a positive environmental identity after ten semi-structured conversations and an online survey among lab employees (primarily located in the UK with a total of 213 respondents) to study the predictors of recycling and reduction behavior across these different contexts. The results of the interviews reveal a variety of motivations and adversities to recycling at work, as well as inconsistencies between the work and home environments. By expanding the scope to include holidays as well as work and home settings, Our analysis of the survey finds that the amount of recyclable waste at home is greater (67 percent) than at work (39 percent) and during holidays (38 percent).

Furthermore, it was found that the TPB was able to explain approximately twice as much variance when it comes to recycling at home as compared with holiday or work-related recycling; however, overall, the study did not provide an adequate explanation for recycling. However, there has been less progress to reduction and reuse practices (Whitmarsh et al., 2011). For instance, whereas less than 3% of UK people say they do not recycle, that number rises to 15% who do not purchase items with smaller packaging, and 30% of people never stop buying new products (Whitmarsh & Co., 2017). Therefore, many remain to be produced and are usually sent to landfill or incineration (e.g., DEFRA 2016).

While governments and businesses have to contribute to the reduction of waste, a major contribution can also be made by individuals in the different environments where they consume and make use of materials. There is not much information about the variables that determine behavior in reducing waste across different contexts (e.g., workplace, home) and how similar individuals are within different settings. Research on recycling suggests that there are significant differences across different contexts, such as between home and work (Tudor & co., 2008). Finding ways to encourage more sustainable practices (including, but not only expanding beyond, recycling) in a variety of settings is a major issue for researchers and policymakers.

This paper seeks to broaden the scope of behavioral and contextual aspects of research on waste reduction behavior, which has mostly focused on recycling in the home environment. We examine the behavior of individuals across each level in the hierarchy of waste that includes reuse, reduction, and recycling behavior; we examine these practices across three distinct contexts, including work, home, and holidays.

Influences on Waste-Reduction Behaviors

Recycling at home is thoroughly studied and is affected by both contextual and individual variables (Oskamp & co., 1991; Varotto & Spagnolli, 2017). Particularly, attitudes, knowledge of norms, social and demographic factors, habits, and other factors in the context (e.g., collecting frequency, recycling bins’ availability) have been proven to predict recycling behavior (e.g., Barr et al., 2003). More wealthy, older, and educated females are able to use more recyclable materials while knowing about environmental issues determines the likelihood of recycling – specifically information about recycling programs, materials, and the place for recycling centers (Geller and others. 1982; Vining & Ebreo, 1990; Schultz et al. 1995; Barr et al. (Bratt, 1999). In the same way, being told to recycle by the residents (“block lead”) was found to enhance social norms and personal expectations (personal obligations) for recycling (Hopper & Nielsen, 1991). Habits have also been proven to predict recycling behaviors (Carrus & co., 2008) since recycling has become a part of our daily lives (Thomas et al., 2013).

Less is known about the variables that determine other waste reduction strategies, such as reuse and prevention research. However, studies that have examined similar practices suggest that both contextual and psychological (e.g., socio-demographic) variables are significant. For instance, UK research found that people with higher education levels, altruistic values, and an environmental-friendly identification are likely to purchase products that have less packaging, While younger, better educated, and less wealthy people, as well as people with altruistic beliefs and a pro-environmental ethos, had a higher likelihood to stay away from buying new items (Whitmarsh and others., 2017).

Strategies to promote waste reduction (beyond recycling) can be implemented through financial incentives that include carrier bag charges or “pay-per-bin” schemes (i.e., local councils charge residents for every bin that is filled) that have proven to be efficient (Gardner & Stern, 1996; Poortinga et al., 2013). This suggests a lack of motivation for reducing waste, rather than mainly structural barriers in the way of reducing waste.

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Jane S. King

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