Determining the drivers for householder pro-environmental behaviour: waste minimisation compared to recycling

Michele Tonglet, Paul S Phillips, Margaret P Bates

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticlepeer-review


New mandatory household recycling targets present a serious challenge to UK Local Authorities. Public participation in Local Authority schemes is key to increasing household recycling levels, however, the most effective way to reduce waste is to deal with it at source, through waste minimisation. Understanding waste minimisation behaviour is key to achieving sustainable waste management and householder based projects which are theoretically underpinned by cognitive psychology and are promoted by carefully designed marketing/communications, over the long-term, should result in reductions in Municipal Solid Waste (MSW). Cognitive psychological modelling can provide the means to identify the driving forces behind recycling and waste minimisation behaviour, and in a given area determine the main likely success factors. Once these factors have been established, cost-effective campaigns can be designed to maximise the outcome. The Theory of Planned Behaviour provides a cognitive framework to understand and explain behaviour, and its use in this study has provided valuable insights into the factors which underpin recycling behaviour. The findings suggest that recycling attitudes are the major determinant of recycling behaviour, and that these attitudes are influenced firstly, by having the appropriate opportunities, facilities and knowledge to recycle, and secondly, by not being deterred by the issues of physically recycling (e.g. time, space and inconvenience). Previous recycling experience, and a concern for the community and the consequences of recycling, are also significant predictors of recycling behaviour. The findings also provide support for the proposition that recycling, waste minimisation through point of purchase and waste minimisation through repair or re-use represent different dimensions of waste management behaviour, and thus will require different strategies and messages. It is suggested that waste minimisation behaviour is likely to be influenced by a concern for the environment and the community, and is likely to be inhibited by perceptions of inconvenience and lack of time and knowledge
Original languageEnglish
Article number1
Pages (from-to)27-48
Number of pages22
JournalResources, Conservation and Recycling
Issue number1
Early online date13 May 2004
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2004


  • Waste minimisation
  • Householders
  • Recycling
  • Theory of Planned Behaviour


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