Sociological Aspects of Waste Paper Recovery

Craig R. Humphrey
Glenn R. Harris
Stuart H. Mann

DOI: 10.2190/NEAJ-W45E-6LFV-A88V


Environmental managers in the business of designing solid waste management systems have a great need for sociological information about those who discard waste. This paper summarizes the literature on attitudinal and behavioral aspects of waste paper recovery, specifically looking for conditions under which attitudes and behavior were congruent. Attitude-behavior congruence is a pertinent sociological concern for the environmental manager, because conservation-oriented attitudes do not necessarily lead to conservation-oriented behavior. Only one study was uncovered about waste paper recovery where the relationship between attitudes and behavior was directly observed; it suggested that anti-litter attitudes and behavior were consistent. Other research has suggested hypothetical conditions which may contribute to a high congruence between attitudes and behavior. These conditions include personal cost, knowledge, and adequate storage space for separated categories of waste paper. Studies on behavioral prompting and reinforcement of waste paper recovery have indicated that without individual or group incentives, conservation-oriented behavior is relatively unlikely to be prevalent in American society, regardless of attitudes toward this kind of activity.

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