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Waste Reduction

Waste Reduction Behaviors at Home

Demand for material is rising as is the environmental harm that comes with the extraction of materials, transport for processing and the management of waste. Although many people claim they are recycling at home, the adoption of environmentally sustainable waste practices in the workplace or in other situations (particularly during holidays) is usually more limited. The ability to create sustainable practices (including, but not only expanding beyond recycling) across a variety of settings remains a major issue for researchers and policy makers. The Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB) has been applied to a range of environmentally-friendly behaviors but 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 holiday and home contexts and investigate whether the consistency across different contexts is an indication of a positive environmental identity. In the course of ten semi-structured interview and an online survey of lab employees (primarily from the UK with a total of 213 respondents) to study the predictors of recycling and reduction behaviors across these settings. The results of the interviews reveal a variety of motives and obstacles to recycling at work as well as inconsistencies between the work and home environments. In addition, when we consider holidays as well as work and home settings and workplaces, our analysis of survey results indicates that the percentage of trash recycled at home is greater (67 percent) than that in the workplace (39 percent) and during the holiday season (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 any convincing reasons for recycling. The study emphasizes that the significance of context (e.g. facilities, buildings) as well as individual (e.g. the identity) elements in shaping the behavior of people who waste. There are significant correlations between different waste reduction strategies across contexts, but within context (e.g. home, work) actions are typically more strongly connected. Future research should go beyond the TPB and expand the scope of context-specific (e.g. organizational) aspects that are studied in different contexts, beyond home, such as the workplace and holiday environments. Due to the various drivers and barriers to reducing waste across contexts, a variety of actions will be needed to encourage recycling reuse, reduction and recycling in these different contexts.


Waste Reduction Behaviors

Demand for material is rising, and so is the environmental impact of the extraction of materials, transport for processing, and disposal ( Allwood et al. 2011). Based on the “waste hierarchy” (reduce, reuse, recycle, reduce), that is the lifecycle approach to products that are the basis of European law regarding recycling and waste ( European Commission, 2014). The most efficient method of reducing waste is to prevent generating waste from occurring in the first place (e.g., avoid products that come with much packaging and consuming fewer items), which is followed by recycling or finding new uses for products. In contrast, recycling is not the most effective approach to reduce waste. The public’s awareness of environmental issues involving waste (e.g., ocean pollution) is increasing (e.g., Hartley et al. (2018)) Recycling rates have been rising in several states ( Eurostat, 2018). There needs to be more progress in recycling and reduced behaviors ( Whitmarsh et al., 2011). For instance, whereas only 3 percent of the UK people say that they do not recycle, that number rises to 15% of people who do not purchase products that have packaging that is less and to 30 percent of people who do not ever avoid buying new items ( Whitmarsh et al. 2017.). Therefore, many remains are produced and usually sent to the landfill or used for burning (e.g., DEFRA (2016)).

Although both governments and businesses need to be involved in decreasing waste, an important part can be played by individuals in the different environments where they consume and make use of materials. There need to be more needs to be more information about the factors influencing the behaviors of reducing waste in various domains (e.g., at home, work) and the degree to which individuals are consistent throughout different settings. The research on recycling suggests significant differences across locations, such as between home and work ( Tudor et al. (2008)). Finding ways to encourage more sustainable behavior (including but not just recycling) across various settings remains a significant problem for researchers and policymakers.

This paper is designed to expand the scope of behavioral and contextual aspects of waste reduction research that primarily focuses on recycling within the domestic environment. The paper examines the behavior across each level in the waste hierarchy, including reuse, reduction, and recycling behavior; we also study these behaviors across three distinct contexts: work, home, and holidays.


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Jane S. King

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