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Psychology helps to increase recycling


In response to challenging targets to reduce household waste, Guildford Borough Council commissioned The Environmental Psychology Research Group at the University of Surrey to undertake research on waste recycling.

This research aimed to identify influential information that affects public participation in Guildford Borough Council’s Kerbside Collection Scheme; to provide locally meaningful information to understand the recycling habits of Guildford Borough residents; and to create innovative methods to increase participation in Guildford’s Kerbside Collection Scheme.

The psychological dimension of recycling is often overlooked and usually just considers personal attitudes and convenience. This research placed the focus on social aspects of recycling as a behaviour and examined how Guildford residents’ waste management habits are determined by neighbourhood influences and their own sense of who they are.

The research included a desktop review as well as surveys and work with focus groups. Perhaps most interestingly it included a series of innovative and practical field trials in which different types of feedback to residents influenced participation in the Councils kerbside collection. In one such experiment participation rates rose from 50% to 90% and remained high (80%) even after the feedback had been discontinued.

Ian Westgate, Recycling Officer at Guildford Borough Council says: “The results of this ground breaking research have been enormously helpful in assisting Guildford Borough Council to develop its waste awareness strategy for the future. It provided incontrovertible proof that campaigning at a real grassroots level in recognisable local communities is extremely effective. We have worked very hard to develop our ‘Community Recyclers Scheme’ in which over 100 local volunteers, armed with the results of this research and other help provided by our officers, are busy promoting our recycling services in their local communities. This work is now beginning to pay real dividends with our latest figures showing a recycling rate of 33% for the Borough.”

Stuart Miller | alfa
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