Carton Council of North America microbehaviors for recycling chart
Carton Council of North America

Study highlights behavioral factors that play into recycling decisions

The Carton Council of North America study indicates what microbehaviors need to occur to form a recycling habit.

December 13, 2021

The Carton Council of North America, an industry organization based in Denton, Texas, has commissioned a behavioral science study that has identified factors that play into recycling decisions. The organization’s study revealed that there are microbehaviors most people need to go through before recycling becomes a habit. Although the study was specific to carton recycling, the Carton Council of North America says these microbehaviors are relevant to all commonly recyclable materials.

According to the Carton Council of North America, some of these factors are logistical, such as having the tools necessary to recycle like a container or location to store recyclables. Other factors are psychological and include things such as judging whether others recycle, following social norms surrounding recycling, encouraging others in the household to recycle and feeling positive about recycling.

“By studying how people make decisions and change their behaviors in real life, the Carton Council hopes to unlock new insights which can be leveraged to nudge people to increase the recycling of their food and beverage cartons,” says Carla Fantoni, vice president of communications for the Carton Council and vice president of communications operations for Tetra Pak.

She adds, “The study revealed that psychological factors cannot be overlooked and play an important role in making recycling a habit.”

Based on the study, the following factors can help to improve recycling behaviors:

  • make recycling easily available to people;
  • society needs to place a strong emphasis on recycling since people are influenced by societal expectations, wanting to feel accepted to a group;
  • provide prompts to recycle since sustainable behaviors are habitual;
  • promote the value of recycling certain products since how people feel about a product shapes their propensities to recycle;
  • provide concrete steps to encourage consistency with recycling behaviors;
  • promote reciprocity of recycling since consumers do not like to feel indebted to others and will make efforts to pay people back for good behavior; and
  • highlight awareness of environmental problems to promote sustainable behaviors like recycling.

The full study is available online.