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The proper APA Style reference for this manuscript is:
MAYFIELD. A.M. (1998). The Effects of Education and Awareness on Recycling. National Undergraduate Research Clearinghouse, 1. Available online at http://www.webclearinghouse.net/volume/. Retrieved September 26, 2023 .

The Effects of Education and Awareness on Recycling
Missouri Western State University DEPARTMENT OF PSYCHOLOGY

Sponsored by: Brian Cronk (cronk@missouriwestern.edu)
The purpose of this study was to look at education and awareness as determinants of recycling behavior. This experiment was a 2 X 2 factorial design that looked at time and sign manipulation as variables that could affect recycling of aluminum cans. Over the period of four weeks, two academic buildings were used to conduct this experiment. In Phase One (the first two weeks), recycling receptacles were left as they were with only "CANS ONLY" signs above them; in Phase Two (the second two weeks), educational and promotional signs were placed above only designated receptacles. Cans were counted daily Monday through Friday at approximately the same time. Cans located in the nearest regular trash bins were also counted. Time was also looked at as a variable that could affect recycling behavior since students might be consuming more canned beverages in one time period versus another. My hypothesis is that the promotional signs will increase the amount of cans in the recycling receptacles and decrease the amount of cans in the regular trash.

In the United States alone, municipal solid waste is produced at the rate of over three pounds per person per day making a total of 160 million tons per year. This costs nearly ten billion dollars annually to dispose of (Tasaday, 1991). This excessive waste has lead to many environmental concerns including the increased use of limited virgin resources, increased energy usage to turn raw materials into finished products, increased air and water pollution and decreased landfill space. With this issue becoming a growing concern, it is obvious that something needs to be done. Recycling has the ability to become an effective resource-recovery mechanism. For the last two decades, recycling has gained attention as a means of protecting our environment; it offers one of the most sensible solutions both economically and ecologically. Despite current recycling efforts, recycling hasn`t become a universal way of life. Over 100 million tons of waste is still thrown away that could have been recycled. So the question remains--how do we increase public awareness and participation in recycling programs?Numerous studies have been done on recycling by many different disciplines ranging from Psychology to Sociology to Economics to Law. Regardless of the discipline, all had a common goal-what factors affect recycling participation. There has been a large discrepancy in the overall proportion of recycling attitudes to recycling behaviors in people. In other words, there is more public talk and support for recycling but less public action taken in recycling. Why does this discrepancy exist? Researchers have found a number of reasons.Hornik, Cherian, Madansky and Narayana (1995) did an extensive meta-analysis of 67 empirical studies on recycling and came up with several variables that might affect recycling behavior. Two basic types of variables were identified: incentives for the social behavior and facilitators (or barriers) for the social behavior. These can be either internal or external to the individual. Demographic variables were also looked at. Basically, five categories were deemed variables that could affect recycling: extrinsic incentives, intrinsic incentives, extrinsic facilitators, intrinsic facilitators and demographic variables. Early research on recycling reported that the primary motivator for recycling was monetary reward, an extrinsic incentive. However, recent research has shown that extrinsic incentives such as monetary reward only have short-term effects on recycling behavior (Hornik, Cherian, Madansky and Narayana, 1995). The reward is good at initiating the behavior, but once it is taken away, the recycling behavior stops. In order to maintain long-term participation in an individual, one must go beyond just extrinsic incentives. Research has also identified social influence as another extrinsic incentive that promotes recycling (Gamba and Oskamp, 1994). Vining and Ebreo (1990) defined social influence as the concern over how friends and family might perceive one`s recycling behavior including the presence or lack of support. This social influence can be powerful enough to sustain the recycling behavior. Another variable that researchers have examined as motivation for recycling is intrinsic incentives. Perceived satisfaction, commitment, and locus of control are all intrinsic motives that can initiate and sustain recycling behavior (Hornik, et al. 1995). It was found that recyclers felt more self-sufficient and less wasteful. Altruism or the selfless concern about doing the right thing plays a large role in this. DeYoung (1986) found that feeling good about doing good for the environment had a strong influence on recycling. Internal locus of control as described by Rotter (1954) is the belief of an individual that events or outcomes of a situation are directly controlled by that individual`s actions. An internal locus of control and knowing that one`s participation in recycling makes a difference drives individuals` who have these intrinsic motivations. These individuals are usually very committed to helping the environment from deterioration and find gratification in conserving natural resources (Gamba and Oskamp, 1994).External facilitators are yet another variable that is identified as influencing recycling behavior (Hornik, Cherian, Madansky and Narayana, 1995). Participating in a recycling program is unique in that the individual is giving up personal time, energy, effort and money in return for no direct immediate benefits but rather long-term social benefits. Several studies have found that these factors such as time, effort and money that it is required for recycling can become external barriers to recycling. Convenience is one of the factors that researchers have looked at. Nyamwange (1996) found that making recycling more convenient could be an effective motivator. Curbside recycling is one way to overcome inconvenience and facilitate recycling.Yet, another variable that might have an impact on recycling is what Hornik (1995) categorized as internal facilitators. These cognitive variables empower a person to recycle. The most important cognitive variables that have been found to influence recycling behavior are knowledge of where, what and how to recycle and awareness of the benefits of recycling. When it comes to recycling, many environmentalists would agree that consumer ignorance plays a major role in why people don`t recycle. This lack of knowledge ranges from what recycling programs are available to what can and cannot be recycled. Vining and Ebreo (1990) found that the major difference between recyclers and non-recyclers was their knowledge of which materials to collect for recycling. Educating individuals about how, what, and where to recycle is important. However, individuals who are skeptic or have an external locus of control (Rotter, 1957) may believe that their participation in recycling won`t make a difference. These individuals may need more persuasion to recycle. Perhaps even more important then is making individuals aware of reasons to recycle and the positive impact that recycling has on the environment. Demographic variables have also been indicated in research as affecting recycling behavior. Certain demographic variables such as education, income and age are often associated with recycling behavior. Often well educated, younger, single-home dwellers are correlated with recycling behavior (Hornik, Cherian, Madansky and Narayana, 1995). Gamba and Oskamp (1994) found that the higher total number of people living in the house and a higher income were strong predictors of pro-recycling behavior. However, this variable is not as predictive as knowledge, an internal facilitator.In looking at these five categories for analyzing variables that affect recycling (internal incentives, external incentives, internal facilitators, external facilitators and demographics), one must consider that not one category stands alone. There is interaction between these categories. For example, an individual who recycles for monetary reward, an external incentive to recycle, may not continue this practice if external facilitators/barriers such as inconvenience overpowers it. To promote recycling, one must keep this in mind.From what research has indicated, promoting recycling behavior is influenced the most by knowledge, an internal facilitator (Hornik, Cherian, Madansky and Narayana, 1995). It appears to be the strongest predictor. It is not only important to educate consumers on what and how to recycle but also to inform the public about the advantage of recycling. The purpose of this study is to look at the effects of education and awareness on recycling.


This investigation will be conducted at Missouri Western State College, a campus in Northwest Missouri with a student body of about 5200. The participants in this study will be the students, staff and faculty who use two academic buildings (the Science and Math building and the Administration building) and who deposit aluminum cans in either the recycling receptacles or the trash. The buildings were chosen based on roughly equal representation of student body and by approximately equal number of receptacles in each building.

Eleven Rubbermaid Roughneck 32-gallon trash bins lined with generic black trash bags will be used for the recycling receptacles. These receptacles were already existing in the buildings prior to this experiment. A hole has been cut out of the lid for the cans to be deposited. Six receptacles will be located in the Administration building and five will be located in the Science and Math building on the various floors. Above the receptacles will be signs indicating to deposit cans. For the first two weeks, the signs will be the already existing 4"6 white cards pasted on green arrows pointing down towards the receptacle. They will have the words "CANS ONLY" printed on them with black ink. For the second two weeks, designated receptacles will have additional signs added that promote recycling. These 8.5 X 11 signs will be more colorful and informative and will be displayed on 11 X 14 fluorescent posterboard. In addition, on the walls will be 8.5 X 11 signs directing individuals to the location of the recycling receptacles.

This research will be a 2X2 factorial design which will last four weeks. Phase One will last the first two weeks, and Phase Two will last the second two weeks. To control for extraneous variables, receptacles will be randomly assigned into one of two groups. Group A receptacles will be the receptacles on the second floor of the Science and Math building and the first floor of the Administration building; these will serve as the control. Group B receptacles will be the on the first and third floors of the Science and Math building and the second floor of the Administration building. Each receptacle will remain in the same location throughout the four-week experiment. In Phase One of the experiment, both Group A and Group B receptacles will have only the "CANS ONLY" signs above them. In Phase Two of the experiment, Group A will remain the same, and Group B will have the additional informative signs added above the receptacles as well as the signs on the walls directing individuals to the receptacles. Cans will be counted Monday through Friday between 9:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. The cans will be counted from both the recycling receptacles and the nearby trash bins and recorded separately. The custodians on these floors agreed to empty the receptacles each night.

A 2 (time) by 2 (sign manipulation) between subjects factorial ANOVA was calculated comparing the amount of aluminum cans in recycling receptacles over time (two phases) and whether the recycling receptacle signs were changed to informative signs in Phase Two (Group B receptacles) or not (Group A receptacles). An analysis of variance computed on mean number of cans per day indicated a significant main effect for Group B receptacles (F (1,76) = 8.43, p < .05). Group B receptacles had a higher (M = 10.63, se = .907) average number of cans deposited in them throughout the experiment (before and after sign manipulation) than the Group A recycling receptacles that remained unchanged (M = 6.9, se = .907). The main effect for the time variable was not significant (F (1,76) = .110, p > .05). The time by sign manipulation interaction was also not significant (F (1,76) = .363, p > .05). Thus, it appears that the main effect (increased can deposits) for Group B recycling bins was not influenced by whether or not the recycling signs were manipulated but rather by the chosen location of Group B receptacles (see Figure 1). Another 2 X 2 between subjects factorial ANOVA of the same variables above was computed, this time comparing the number of aluminum cans in the trash bins instead of the number of cans in the recycling bins. A significant main effect was found for the number of cans found in the trash near the Group B receptacles (F (1,76) = 5.417, p < .05). The average number of cans in the trash near these receptacles was slightly higher (M = 7.35, se = .904) than the trash bins near Group A receptacles (M = 4.375, se = .904) throughout the entire experiment. The main effect for the time variable was not significant (F (1,76) = 2.635, p > .05). The time by sign manipulation interaction (F (1,76) = .086, p > .05) was also not significant (see Figure 2).

In investigating whether eye-catching, informative signs promoting recycling contributes to an increase in recycling on campus, it was found that the average amount of cans in Group B receptacles (those manipulated in Phase Two) was higher than Group A receptacles (those that remained unchanged throughout the experiment). However, Group B receptacles averaged more cans throughout the experiment and not just with the addition of promotional signs. Unfortunately, the use of these promotional signs was not a strong enough treatment. Another confounding variable for this experiment could have been the lack of control of the recycling bins. The custodians were in charge of emptying the receptacles every night and were instructed not to empty receptacles until a designated time when the counting of the cans would be finished. Whether this was done is uncertain. When just looking at the time variable and its` division into Phase One and Phase Two, this was to control for history variables in case Phase One had a larger consumption of canned beverages than Phase Two. However, no significant difference was found. When looking at the interaction between time and Group A and B receptacles, there was a slight increase in deposited cans in the Group B recycling bins. This was predicted in my hypothesis, but it was not large enough to be significant. For future research, I would suggest several changes for this experiment. First, I would try to have more control of the recycling bins. There was some misunderstanding among the custodians about the procedure I was using to count cans. They agreed to empty the recycling bins each night after I counted the cans, but I`m not sure if this occurred. For future research, I would probably suggest doing a multiple baseline experiment to see if eye-catching, informative signs make a difference in recycling behavior. I would establish a baseline with no prompts (signs) of any kind for the first phase; add the informative signs for phase two; then take the signs away for the third phase; then add the signs a final time to see if the signs actually made a difference (ABAB approach). Perhaps, another improvement for this experiment would be the use of a stronger treatment such as more informative signs that really grabbed the attention of a passerby or maybe even flyers to hand out on campus to make students and faculty aware of the benefits of recycling. The key motive in recycling as shown by numerous researchers (Hornik, Cherian, Madansky and Narayana, 1995) is knowledge. I think the only way to instill recycling habits in people is through education and awareness that we must take action to preserve this planet. Every step counts!

DeYoung, R.(1986). Some psychological aspects of recycling. Environment and Behavior,18, 435-449. Gamba, R.J. & Oskamp, S. (1994). Factors influencing community residents` participation in commingled curbside recycling programs. Environment and Behavior,26, 587-612. Hornik, J., Cherian, J., Madansky, M. & Narayana, C. (1995). Determinants of recycling behavior: A synthesis of research results. Journal of Socio-Economics,24, 105-127. Nyamwange, M. (1996). Public perception of strategies for increasing participation in recycling programs. The Journal of Environmental Education,27, 19-22. Rotter, J.B. (1954). Social learning and clinical psychology. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall. Tasaday, L. (1991). Shopping for a better environment. New York: Meadowbrook Press. Vining, J. & Ebreo, A. (1990). What makes a recycler? A comparison of recyclers and nonrecyclers. Environment and Behavior,22, 55-73.

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Submitted 12/3/98 12:57:48 PM
Last Edited 12/3/98 1:34:46 PM
Converted to New Site 03/09/2009

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