The Behavioral Economics of Recycling

This is an article “The Behavioral Economics of Recycling,” recently published in the Harvard Business Review.

The author is an Assistant Professor of Marketing at Questrom School of Business, Boston University.

She and her colleague conducted research looking at behavioral bias in recycling and disposal habits. She found that people are more likely to recycle items that haven’t been distorted—like undented soda cans and paper that hasn’t been torn into pieces (“distortion bias”).

They also found that people are more likely to recycle items linked to an element of their identity—a Starbucks cup with their name on it, for example (“identity bias”).

A third factor affects not what we recycle, but how much we recycle: people who know they are going to recycle after completing a task that generates waste tend to use far more resources than they otherwise would have.

Just something to think about as we all sort through the behavioral issues related to recycling!

– Denise Slattery