Factors of Household Recycling and Waste Reduction Behavior

ABSTRACT - This study examines the antecedents of recycling and reducing household waste based on an integrated waste reduction model. The model was tested using Japanese household recycling and reducing waste data. The results suggest that this model fits the data well and confirms the hypothesized causal relationships. Especially, attitude toward waste reduction behavior has a strongly effect on both recycling and reducing waste behavior. Attitude toward waste reduction is also determined by ecological involvement, perceived cost and benefit, accessibility of a recycling program, and subjective norm.


Chizuru Nishio and Toshie Takeuchi (2005) ,"Factors of Household Recycling and Waste Reduction Behavior", in AP - Asia Pacific Advances in Consumer Research Volume 6, eds. Yong-Uon Ha and Youjae Yi, Duluth, MN : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 46-51.

Asia Pacific Advances in Consumer Research Volume 6, 2005      Pages 46-51


Chizuru Nishio, University of Tsukuba, Japan

Toshie Takeuchi, Hosei University, Japan


This study examines the antecedents of recycling and reducing household waste based on an integrated waste reduction model. The model was tested using Japanese household recycling and reducing waste data. The results suggest that this model fits the data well and confirms the hypothesized causal relationships. Especially, attitude toward waste reduction behavior has a strongly effect on both recycling and reducing waste behavior. Attitude toward waste reduction is also determined by ecological involvement, perceived cost and benefit, accessibility of a recycling program, and subjective norm.


Various laws promoting waste reduction and resource recycling have been enacted, and environmental and waste management systems have become a key concern of the government, the general public and industries. However, as waste disposal depends on the efficiency of the waste disposal facility operated by the local government in Japan, there are discrepancies in rules and disposal methods between local governments. Although it is largely anticipated tat degree of reception of the consumer waste reduction behavior is strongly influenced by waste separation rules and waste collection methods determined by local governments, the effect is not sufficiently understood.

The purpose of the study proposes an integrated waste reduction model based on previous research, and analyzes the mechanism of consumer’s waste reduction behavior. Waste reduction behavior is roughly classified as waste that can be recycled into a resource (recycling), and the attempt to reduce waste generated in the home through packaging reduction and refusing wasteful purchases (reducing household waste). The object of this research is waste reduction behavior, which combines both of these classifications.


Ecological Involvement

Previous studies have reported that the sense of social responsibility that represents individual’s feeling of duty or obligation to help the environment has engaged in responsible environmental attitude and behavior (e.g. Kassarjian 1971, Anti 1984, Hines et al. 1986, Webster 1975). However, in this research, ecological involvement is given as the more strongly mediator for pro-environmental attitude and behavior. The reason why we choose ecological involvement as a substitute for social responsibility is because, with the increase of environmental problems in recent years, most consumers now feel a duty and obligation to environmental protection. In spite of this, pro-environmental attitude and behavior has not yet reached sufficient levels. In order to change the consumer’s lifestyle to one of environmental preservation, a feeling of obligation such as social responsibility will not be enough. Rather, we believe that ecological involvement has more powerful motivation to pro-environmental behavior, because it is possible to enjoy an environmentally friendly lifestyle through the creation of a strong relationship between individual values and pro-environmental behavior.

Perceived Consumer Effectiveness

Perceived consumer effectiveness (PCE) is defined as a domain-specific belief that the efforts of an individual can make a difference in the solution to an environmental problem. PCE is related to the concept of perceived behavioral control such as locus of control and self-efficacy. PCE was initially considered a measure or element of the attitude itself (e.g. Kinnear et al. 1974, Webster 1975, Antil 1984). However, most researchers today define an attitude as simply an evaluation of problems and issues, whereas PCE is as a belief of the extent to which individual ecological activities contribute to a solution to the environmental problem and moderates environmental attitude and behavior (e.g. Ellen et al. 1991, Berger & Corbin 1992). Berger & Corbin (1992) analyzed not only the influence of faith in the efficacy of individual behavior, but also the influence of faith in the efficacy of others (FIO) such as technology/scientific ability and the next generation. They also reported that the high FIO consumers show willingness to pay the environmental cost and support for the regulatory action. On the basis of these results, this research also picks up on PCE as the mediator of environmental attitude.

Perceived Cost and Benefit

It is said that environmental problems in recent years are due to a life style of mass production, mass consumption and mass disposal. Therefore, recycling and reducing household waste is different from the present lifestyle in that it requires extra time, action, and costs. It has been reported that the perceived costs of price increases (e.g. Crosby etal. 1981, Vining & Ebreo 1990), and inconvenience (e.g. McCarty & Shrum 1994) toward environmental behavior negatively affect recycling attitudes and behaviors.

On the other hand, waste reduction behavior and purchase of substitution products has the beneficial results of preventing unnecessary consumption and reducing living expenses. Werner & Makela (1998) suggested that recycling behavior is necessary but a boring task and therefore it is important to express it from a viewpoint of benefit and profit for the consumer, and to make the consumer feel that it is an interesting and attractive task. Thus, the presentation of beneficial information increases recycling attitudes and the participation in recycling programs.

In previous research, perceived cost and benefit were not considered individually; rather the sense of balance obtained from the required cost of putting into practice and the benefit of labor compensation was established. However, according to an analysis by Nishio (2002), there is a difference among consumers toward perceived cost and benefit of ecological behavior. For many consumers, cost perception occurs separately from benefit perception. It was found that ecological behavior was not evaluated with a "cost to benefit" comparison. Therefore, in this research it is decided to take up perceived costs and perceived benefits separately.

Rule acceptability

Waste separation and collection for recycling not only requires extra time and effort, it also depends on recycling technology and waste disposal methods. Then, ease of implementation such as intelligibility of rules, ease of task, and ready access to environmental programs, has a large influence on consumer’s behavior and attitude. According to Nishio (2002), the most important accelerative factor of environmental behavior, not only recycling, but also all other ecological behaviors, is acceptability of the environmental rules/programs and cooperation/participation at one’s own pace. Then, in this research, rule acceptability is the direct influencer of household waste reduction attitude.

Subjective Norm

Because environmental problems have a social dilemma, [The social dilemma is a situation which results in a loss of society=s common profits in spite of the fact that consumer behavior tends to maximizes profit based on personal preference, and the results would be even worse if that behavior was not evident.] individual environmental attitude and behavior is influenced by the norm of social groups such as friends and family (e.g. Oskamp et al. 1991, Granzin & Olsen 1991, Hopper & Nielsen 1991, Jackson et al. 1993, Taylor & Todd 1995, Nonami et al. 1997). Granzin & Olsen (1991) reported that the behavior such as newspaper recycling, reuse of clothes and the furniture, and walking instead of using the car for the sake of preserving the environment is subject to normative influence from friends and associates. In addition, Taylor & Todd (1995) examined the influence of internal and external normative belief to waste composting behavior and found that both groups have equal influence. This research, similar to Taylor & Todd (1995), deals with both belief of the internal family normative and the external friends/acquaintances normative.

Attitude toward Ecological Behavior

Environmental attitude is considered to be the most important variable as a predictor of ecological behavior (e.g. Hines et al. 1987, Shrum et al. 1994, Fransson & Garling 1999, Kaiser et al. 1999). Environmental attitude is roughly classified as that which measures overall attitude toward the environment/environmental problems, and that which measures attitudes toward specific ecological behavior such as recycling and energy conservation. The overall attitude toward the environment is generally considered as ecological concern, and is presented in various measurements as either single dimensional or multi-dimensional scales(e.g. Weigel & Weigel 1978, Dunlap & Van Liere 1978, Stern et al. 1993 ). However, since there is a discrepancy between measurement scales in the concept of ecological attitude, the degree of relation between the ecological attitude and ecological behavior is also very different between measurement scales (Tarrant & Cordell 1997). Hines et al. (1987) and many other studies have been reported that the attitude toward specific environmental behavior is more predictor than the overall attitude toward the environment. Therefore, this research will focus not on the overall attitude toward the environment, but rather on the attitude toward waste reduction behavior.

Based on previous research as seen above, the integrated waste reduction model is proposed as shown in Figure 1. The most important variable as a predictor of waste reduction is the attitude toward it’s behavior. The attitude is also formed by ecological involvement, perceived consumer effectiveness, perceived cost, perceived benefit, rule acceptability, and subjective norm. It is assumed that perceived cost is a hindrance factor with all others assumed to be promotional factors.

Consumer involvement has been considered as a strongly mediator that determine his/her behavior and information processing (e.g. Laaksonen 1994). Then, we hypothesize that ecological involvement which is motivational effects on perceived consumer effectiveness, perceived risk, perceived benefit, rule acceptability, subjective norm and formation of waste reduction attitude.

According to the agenda-setting function of mass media (McCombs & Shaw, 1972), a topic or discussion is emphasized in the mass media is strongly affects on individual interest and perceived importance of the topic or discussion. It has been shown that even for environmental problems, consumer interest and sense of crisis toward environmental problems is readily influenced by information from the mass media (Nonami et al. 1997, Nishio 2002). Thus, we assume that consumer’s interest in environmental problems in relation to the level of media contact has a positive influence on the formation of consumer ecological involvement.


The questionnaires consisted of all variables as shown in Figure 1. The ecological involvement scale consists of 4 items referencing the consumer involvement scales (Aoki et al., 1988). The level of media contact scale is composed of 5 items representing the contact level of different types of environmental informational media such as the mass media, books, city advertisements and events, and corporate pamphlets. The perceived consumer effectiveness scale contains 5scales representing not only of the perceived effectiveness toward individual behavior (Ellen et al. 1991, Nonami et al. 1997), but also the influence of faith in the efficacy of others according to the findings of Berger & Corbin (1992). The perceived cost scale is composed of 3 items that measure effort, labor, inconvenience and sense of burden to lifestyle based on the research of Vining & Ebreo (1990) and McCarty & Shrum (1994). The perceived benefit scale contains 2 items that is generated by referencing Nisho’s open-ended question analysis (2002). The rule acceptability scale is also derived from responses to Nisho’s findings (2002), and is composed of 3 items related to the degree of individual discretion such as the intelligibility of waste separation/recycling rules, and cooperation at ones own pace. The subjective norm scale is composed both the influence of internal family norm and external friends/acquaintances norm based on the findings of Taylor & Todd (1995). The waste reduction attitude scale is composed of 3 items representing an evaluation and an intention toward doing waste reduction behavior. The participation in waste reduction behavior scale contains 2 aspects; (1) participation in recycling behavior (5 items) and (2) participation in household waste reduction behavior (6 items) as we discussed above. These every questions are all measured on a 5-point Likert scales.


The data was obtained from a survey of 3,000 representatively selected individuals, living in a Tokyo suburb [At the time of the survey of waste collection for Yokkaido city, waste separation along the following lines was implemented: nonimflammable waste, inflammable waste, resource waste (aluminum cans, steel cans, bottles and paper), and bulk waste.] in August 2002. These 3000 samples were chosen using the random sampling method based on the resident database of that city which has about 30,000 households’ data. The response rate for the survey was 39.3%, resulting in a sample of 1179 respondents. [We used random sampling method, however, respondents= character weren=t well-balanced such that 60% of respondents were female, 23% were in their 50's, 38% were in their 60's (the largest bracket), occupation classification showed 31% of respondents as stay-at-home wife/husband, 19% as unemployed, and 18% as office workers.]

Factor analysis was performed on each scale to confirm the single dimensional structure of the scale. We also calculated Cronbach’s alpha coefficient to check the reliability of each scale.



As a result is shown in Table 1, each scale was summarized with a factor of 1 and the reliable coefficient (Cronbach’s alpha) was approximately 0.7. However, the perceived consumer effectiveness scale couldn=t be confirmed to the hypothetical structure. It was also rejected in the test for normality of the specific factor variable with the prerequisite for the structural equation modeling because of the extreme deviation in response for the scale. Therefore, below we examine the model which removes the factor of perceived consumer effectiveness from the hypothesized model is shown in Figure 1.

The model was formulated as a structural equation model and estimated with the AMOS program. The hypothesized model that was specified in the above-mentioned method shows the goodness of fit indices as shown by Table 2. However, the alternative model which adds the path form rule acceptability to recycling on the hypothesized model suggests fits the data significantly, because the deference of chi-square between the hypothesized model and the alternative model is c2(1)=25.769(p<0.01). The other fit indices are also high such as the goodness of fit index (GFI) of 0.901, the adjusted goodness of fit index (AGFI) of 0.885, and the root mean square error of approximation (RMSEA) of 0.050. Figure 2 gives the standardized parameter estimates for the alternative model.

As indicated in Figure 2, all path coefficients in the model were significant. Both recycling and household waste reduction behavior are determined by the strong path coefficient from attitude toward waste reduction. The attitude is positively influenced by ecological involvement, perceived benefit, rule acceptability, and subjective norm but is negatively influenced by perceived cost. Especially, ecological involvement has not only positively effect on perceived benefit, rule acceptability, subjective norm and negatively effect on perceived cost, but also predominantly effect on forming the attitude directly. In addition, ecological involvement is strongly positively influenced the level of media contact.

Furthermore, through the exploratory analysis, a direct positively causal relation was discovered between rule acceptability and recycling behavior (See Figure 2). Direct causality from rule acceptability is not seen in reducing household waste that is waste reduction behavior of another side. These findings indicate that acceptability of the city’s waste separation and recycling rules increase the consumer’s participation to recycling behavior as habitual behavior. However, it is necessary to perform the waste reduction attitude to do reducing household waste such as packaging reduction and refusing wasteful purchases.


In this research, the integrated consumer waste reduction behavior model was proposed. As a result of data analysis, the presented model fits well with actual consumer data, and the causal relations hypothesized in the model was accepted with the exception of perceived consumer effectiveness. It became clear that attitude toward waste reduction was the most important variable as a predictor of waste reduction behavior. In addition, it was shown that the city’s recycling rules and systems was also important to perform consumer’s recycling behavior. This provides policymakers with useful advice on approaches to influence waste management behavior.

Future topics are listed below. First, perceived consumer effectiveness which has been considered an important factor of consumer ecological behavior in previous studies, couldn=t be identified and examined for it’s effect in this research due to the lack of a reliable scale. Presently, legal arrangements for environmental preservation have been advanced and adopting ecological behavior is required by public opinion. Because waste separation and recycling behavior is probably most familiar and acceptable ecological behavior to consumers, most respondents showed strongly belief to perceived effectiveness of waste and recycling problems. It is necessary to develop more precise measurement and method of perceived consumer effectiveness for waste and recycling problems.







In addition, it was found that the possibility of differences in motivation and causal structure which is the background for waste reduction behavior and recycling behavior. In particular, participants of recycling behavior consist of both groups of people who have the positive attitude towards environmental preservation based on the understanding of relationship between the environmental problem and individual lifestyle, and people who form a habit of following rules set up by their local government. However, do these two consumer groups with such different characteristic toward recycling behavior truly exist? Concerning that, further deep research is necessary.

Our integrated model should help researchers to better understand the complex structure of consumer waste reduction behavior. It will be expected that the model has significant potential to explain the structure of the other ecological behavior such as choice of environmentally friendly products, energy conservation, et al.


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Chizuru Nishio, University of Tsukuba, Japan
Toshie Takeuchi, Hosei University, Japan


AP - Asia Pacific Advances in Consumer Research Volume 6 | 2005

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