Social, cultural and structural influences on household waste recycling: A case study

  • Martin M
  • Williams I
  • Clark M
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The household-recycling rate in the Borough of Burnley, England in 2001/2002 was only half the national average of 12%. This research employed both quantitative and qualitative surveys in order to ascertain whether householders' attitudes to recycling were contributory factors to the generally poor recycling performance and to investigate other social, cultural and structural influences. The Borough has a large Asian-British population concentrated in two deprived wards where recycling rates are particularly low, so special attention was given to ascertaining their attitudes towards recycling. The quantitative survey comprised a postal questionnaire sent to a random sample of 360 households drawn from the electoral register. The qualitative survey consisted of group interviews with the Asian-British population at local community centres and focus groups attended by volunteers from the quantitative study. The findings suggest that householders are very willing to participate in recycling, as shown by the almost 80% claiming to recycle paper, but that local recycling services are too unreliable and inconvenient to allow them to do so comprehensively. Asian-British attitudes to recycling were found to be no different to those of the wider population, with their low participation being linked to the higher priorities imposed upon them by economic deprivation. The findings are broadly in line with those of the literature in that recycling participation tends to be higher among more affluent and older people, but lower among less affluent and younger households, probably due in part to the availability of both storage space and time, with the implication that the Borough's preponderance of terraced housing militates against a high recycling rate. Policy recommendations to local authorities include the provision of bespoke recycling services to suit the variety of residential conditions across the UK, and the provision of regular feedback to householders regarding recycling services and performance. Further research is needed to identify non-recyclers and to explore how householders' underlying psychological, cultural and social attitudes to recycling impinge upon recycling and participation rates. © 2006 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Ethnic minorities
  • Kerbside recycling
  • Local authority
  • Public participation
  • Social surveys

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  • M. Martin

  • I. D. Williams

  • M. Clark

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