Factors influencing waste management behaviours and future insights.

For the three main waste management behaviours, waste reduction, reuse and recycling. I'll leave this to the readers to provide solutions and methods for tackling these main areas of waste management. In the meantime, lets jump straight to the point.

Weekly household expenditure data in the UK, FYE 2019, provided by Office for national statistics, shows that 55.9% of household expenditure, excluding Transport, Housing (fuel and power), Restaurants and hotels, Communication services and other opaque areas, are spent on waste producing areas of the economy, whereas 27.3% is spent on green-house producing sectors such as Transportation, Fuel and Power.

As perceived by the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in 1992, more and more government around the world are starting to act to reduce the amount of non-recyclable materials which are sent to landfills.

Furthermore, improving high quality recycling helps Environmental and Economic benefits of waste materials. Based on the Impact Assessment for amendments to the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2010, businesses could gain between £22.0m to £50.2m simply because being able to recycle more non-target and non-recyclable, would decrease resource loss and increase yield.

As of 2019, the total household expenditure in the UK has increased by 13.20% compared to 2013, this was when 43% of household waste and 52% of business waste was collected for recycling, and the UK was a declared a nation of recyclers. Since then, household recycle rates have hit 45% for 2018 which is 0.4% year-on-year increase in household recycling.

This begs the question, is the UK on track to recycle 50% of household waste by 2020? The EU set a target for the UK to recycle at least 50% of household waste by this date, with a 0.4% increase/year in recycling this target is most likely to be reached by the end of 2030 than 2020, which is 12 years and 5 months offset from the target.

The new target set above is excluding impacts of coronavirus on the economy, during 2020 and an alarming rate of product consumption and pollution, especially plastics, by consumer and businesses during the lockdown, when restrictions were placed on the country.

To add clarity, between 2004 and 2017, the UK saw waste recycle rate increase of 1.615%/year which would have been absolutely possible to hit the target set by the European Environment Agency for 2020.

Data provided by the EEA (European Environment Agency) related to recycling rates in European countries, which indicate the percentage of municipal waste generated that is recycled, composted and anaerobically digested, shows that the UK had a ~44% recycle rate (No. 13) as of 2017, compared to Germany, who had 56% recycle rate in 2004 and 68% in 2017. This is an average recycle rate of +0.523%/year, more than UK average recycle rate increase of 0.4%/year.

European Environment Agency - Municipal waste recycled and composed in Europe

At this point, one has to also ask, how does Germany achieve a 0.923% recycle rate increase year-on-year? Is our government doing enough to push recycling? Is the population doing enough to recycle? Compared to a period between 2004 and 2017, the UK's recycle rate has dropped from 1.615% to 0.4% which is a 1.215% decline in recycling compared to previous periods.

Since 2016, the country has faced unknown difficulties and challenges in an attempt to increase recycle rates. Based on Data provided by Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs on 19th March 2020, recycle rates were 44.5% in 2015, 45.1% in 2016, 45.5% in 2017, and 45% in 2018, an unexplained decline in efforts to recycle more waste, under the watch of the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Andrea Leadsom and Michael Gove).

The main attributes between household attitudes and environmental behaviours can be broadly linked to environmental values, situational variables and psychological factors. Stern, Dietz, and Guagnano (1995) have argued that egotistic and conservative individuals are unlikely to be pro-environmental, whereas people who have the value types of universalism, are more likely to have a biospheric value orientation.

Furthermore, it has been demonstrated that a decrease in the length of time an individual has to travel to reach a recycling destination, and an increase in the number of recycling facilities available, would improve positive normative and behavioural effects related to how frequently they tend to use these facilities.

i.e. the more static recycling bins are available, the more people tend to recycle whilst outside, also, the perception of watching other people use these facilities tends to normative this behaviour.

Psychology factors could be caused by a large degree of variables, but most prevalent, it's mostly impacted by personality characteristics of each person and what they think about the actions they're doing. To promote positive psychology behaviours in-regards to recycling, first we have to ask:

Awareness of Need

For example, the plastic pollution problem. Are people aware that there's a plastic pollution problem? Is the relevant agencies doing enough to bring more awareness to this problem?

Awareness that action can solve the problem

For example, do people know that recycling can help? How frequently is the population informed that recycling is a viable solution to solve this problem? Excluding television and internet advertisements, how many times at work and within educational institutions are people told that recycling can help?

Awareness of individual responsibility

For example, is the population aware that the action is an individual responsibility? How often are people told that everyone's combined efforts count towards combating waste?

Short-term motivators such as promoting the "feel-good" factor of self, by recycling and saving the planet, is a stepping-stone. However, to convert this into a long-term physiological change, economical factors such as getting paid for recycling, would need to be added to ensure that these habits encouraged, reward, and kept relevant.    

We hope you've enjoyed this article, and are more equipped to high pollution. Please leave us your ideas in the comment section.


Quality Action Plan 2013

The Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2010.

Factors Influencing Environmental Attitudes and Behaviors: A U.K. Case Study of Household Waste Management

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.