Determinants of Low-Cost and High-Cost Recycling

Andersson. M., & von Borgstede, C. (2010). Differentiation of determinants of low-cost and high-cost recycling Journal of Environmental Psychology, 30, 402-408.

Recycling has become an important strategy in addressing both environmental and economic concerns. Previous research has examined factors influencing recycling behavior, such as beliefs about environmental consequences of recycling, procedural knowledge about when, where, and how to recycle, and both personal and social norms favoring pro-environmental behavior. Yet, these studies have not differentiated between determinants of different types of recycling behavior. Andersson and von Borgstede (2010) were interested in whether each of these factors differentially influence the recycling of low-cost items (e.g., paper or glass) and high-cost items (e.g., organic waste or non-rigid plastic). The authors collected data by mail from 418 Swedish citizens using a questionnaire that assessed recycling beliefs, knowledge, norms, and behaviors. Results indicated that knowledge as well as personal and social norms better predict high-cost recycling than low-cost recycling. Beliefs about environmental consequences did not predict either low- or high-cost recycling. The authors suggested that people may recycle for other than altruistic reasons and that efforts to increase recycling should focus on providing information that increases knowledge of recycling procedures as well as efforts to shift personal and social norms. These factors may interact in that individuals who perceive stronger pro-environment norms may be more likely to attend to information about recycling.

Making Connections

Attitudes and behavior
Social norms

Media Supplement

According to psychologist Sean Duffy of Rutgers University, the design of recycling bins can have a significant impact on recycling behavior. See the site for a description of this research.