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[GreenYes] FWD: what motivates people to recycle

From: Allison Fraley <>

My educational background is in Social
Psychology and the issue of what motivates people to recycle was my master's
thesis. I did an extensive literature review and I'm looking all over my home
office trying to find the damn thing and I can't. The information is probably a
little outdated since I completed the study in 1992. I would guess there's been
a lot more study on the subject recently.

Basically, what I found in my research is that convenience is the number one
predictor of recycling behavior and monetary incentives are right up there if
they're big enough. Education and environmentally responsible attitudes are
elusive predictors and not all studies confirm their influence on behavior.
Demographic influence on behavior is not very convincing either. Although,
there was research that confirmed that long term residence in a household
predicted higher recycling rates, and that higher socioeconomic status
sometimes played a role in higher recycling rates. I conducted a survey that
confirmed that convenience and monetary value of recyclable materials were the
only factors predicting behavior. Environmental knowledge and demographic
variables had no effect on reported behavior. Looking back though, I think my
knowledge measure was flawed because my test of knowledge was too difficult
(crazy environmentalist that I am), and also my demographics could have been
skewed because I was pooling a specific demographic group of college students
in California. However, when I ponder this question (daily now because of the
job), I always come back to convenience and money. That's what it's all about.
Oh - one more thing. A lot of research suggests that social influence carries a
lot of weight - mainly in the form of people being motivated by their peers who
are environmentally conscious. Many studies have highlighted the idea of a
"block leader" program for recycling where someone in a neighborhood is
designated as the recycling police and goes door to door to talk about
recycling periodically. These studies found significant increases in recycling
rates for those neighborhoods vs. those with no block leaders. I've found this
to be true in my personal life, where for years I've made friends with people
who were totally unconscious of environmental issues until they met me, and now
they report on what they recycle or what bad products they neglected to buy
because of my influence.

I hope this helps.

Mahlon Aldridge
Ecology Action, Inc.
P.O. Box 1188
Santa Cruz, CA 95061
Ph. 831-426-5925 x16
Fax 831-425-1404

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