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Who Recycles and When? a Review of Personal and Situational Factors

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Journal of Environmental Psychology, Volume 15, p.105- (1995)



Despite the societal importance of reusing waste materials, few empirical studies have specifically examined recycling behaviors as differentiated from attitudes and intentions. This paper reviews the empirical studies of recycling, summarizes research findings, and identifies areas for future research. The effects on recycling behavior of both personal variables (personality, demographics, and attitudes of environmental concern) and manipulable situational variables are reviewed. Results indicate that high income is a good predictor of recycling, whereas gender and age are not. General environmental concern appears to be related to recycling only when recycling requires a high degree of effort. However, relevant specific attitudes have consistently been found to correlate with recycling behavior. The seven situational variables reviewed (prompts, public commitment, normative influence, goal setting, removing barriers, providing rewards, and feedback) all produce significant increases in recycling behavior. However, there are several major limitations to the research. Results are based largely on single-variable assessments of recycling, and fail to consider interactions with characteristics of the environment or the population involved.