Research on Recycling Behavior

Below is a bibliography of relevant social science research that shows how important convenience and access are to increasing recycling behavior.


University of British Columbia. "Making Bins More Convenient Boosts Recycling and Composting Rates." ScienceDaily, 21 April 2017.

When recycling bins were placed just 1.5 meters from suites in student residences, instead of in the basement, recycling and composting increased by an average of 141 percent, diverting an average of nearly 20 kilograms of waste from the landfill per person per year. The findings have big implications for waste management and environmental policy, highlighting unique aspects of human behavior.

Shaufique, F. Sidique, Frank Lupi, Satish V. Joshi.  “The Effects of Behavior and Attitudes on Drop-off Recycling Activities,” Resource Conservation and Recycling, 54:3, January 2010, pp. 163-170.

To reduce the amount of waste entering landfills, policymakers and governments have implemented various recycling and waste reduction programs…. This paper studies the profile of people who utilize drop-off recycling sites and analyzes the factors influencing their site usage. The results show that the usage of drop-off recycling sites is influenced by demographic factors such as age, education, income and household size. Attitudinal factors are also found to affect site usage. Recyclers tend to use the drop-off sites more when they feel that recycling is a convenient activity and when they are more familiar with the sites.

U.S. Government Accountability Office. "Additional Efforts Could Increase Municipal Recycling," GAO-07-37, Dec 29, 2006.

GAO interviewed recycling coordinators in 11 large cities about key practices and 13 additional recycling stakeholders about policy options. Recycling coordinators with whom GAO spoke identified three practices to increase recycling in their cities: (1) making recycling convenient and easy for their residents, (2) offering financial incentives for recycling, such as allowing residents who produce less waste through recycling to use smaller garbage cans and pay lower fees, and (3) conducting public education and outreach.

Amanda Birkner, Kim Celusnak, Gina Nutini, et al., “Predicted Recycling Bin Usage in Apartment Complexes,” Undergraduate Research Journal for the Human Sciences, Volume 9, 2010.

This study measured whether or not the presence of recycling bins at Mount Pleasant apartment complexes would be utilized enough by the primarily college student residents to be worth effort…. Findings showed that while only 17 percent of college student apartment residents currently “always” recycle, and only 26 percent “always” recycled in the dorms, that 59 percent would “always” recycle if recycling bins were provided at their apartment complexes.

M. Martin, I.D. Williams, M. Clark, “Social, Cultural and Structural Influences on Household Waste Recycling: A Case Study,” Resource Conversation and Recycling, 48:4, October 2006, pp 357-395.

This research employed both quantitative and qualitative surveys in order to ascertain whether householders’ attitudes to recycling were contributory factors to the generally poor recycling performance and to investigate other social, cultural and structural influences. The findings suggest that householders are very willing to participate in recycling, as shown by the almost 80% claiming to recycle paper, but that local recycling services are too unreliable and inconvenient to allow them to do so comprehensively.

Travis P. Wagner, “Examining the Concept of Convenient Collection: An Application to Extended Producer Responsibility and Product Stewardship Frameworks,”  Waste Management, 2012.

Convenience of a waste collection and recycling program is one of the most important non-socioeconomic determinants in whether an individual will recycle.  Research has supported that curbside collection is the most convenient collection system for households. However, because curbside collection is more expensive; time-consuming to design, implement, and operate; and special provisions would be necessary for curbside collection of hazardous, fragile, or low economic value materials; offsite drop-off remains attractive to public solid waste managers.