As the movement towards recycling societies seems to be global, there is a need for a better understanding of success and failures factors for recycling activities. Big differences between recycling programs within a country, even within a city, highlight the importance of local conditions and appropriate design of recycling activities. But going further it is necessary to discuss about recycling and personal behavior.
The aim of the invited lecture that I am going to present in the Recycling Conference 5-7 May in Sao Paulo (for more information look at http://www.feirasnacipa.com.br/beacon/) is to outline the major issues and questions that are related with the failure and success of recycling programs in the framework of personal behavior. By that way, the waste management community would better design and take- care the recycling activities in order to make them more efficient and more oriented to results.
Firstly, major psychological barriers will be presented in the framework of behavioral psychology. Is there any kind of barrier to our brain for long-term results? Is there any structural problem to our personality that renders a more general recycling behavior?
The evolutionary emerging structure of human personality will be described and its impacts to decision-making. The importance of human temporal and spatial scale will be discussed as well. The importance of present-focus brain will be highlighted.
Then the difference between recycling in developed and developing countries will be emphasized in order to outline the different motivations that do exist to recycling. Those differences provide a useful tool to understand the “moral” against the “survival” recycling and drive to helpful remarks regarding informal sector recycling. The more recycling results that seem to be produced in low- income countries will be discussed and comments will be made regarding the income-related issues. The conclusions are:
1. Informal recycling is low cost and has poor working conditions, but in spite of this it is both efficient and effective, and recovers a lot of materials.
2. Formal recycling initiatives have a tendency to be high cost, inefficient, isolated, and to recover very small quantities of material.
3. Municipalities beginning with recycling would often be better advised to build on the activities of the existing private recycling sector – both informal and formal -- rather than to reinvent formal recycling themselves.
Finally, the already proposed frame of situational conditions – social and environmental values - personal attitudes will be discussed as a mean to understand the actual personal recycling performance.
Major finding regarding social- demographic characteristics and their link to recycling will be summarized. The link between life-style and recycling performance will be assessed through literature review and the effect of neighborhood will be presented. Specific social research outcomes will be presented and comments will be made regarding the correlations between different approaches and views to individual’s recycling performance. Why full recyclers are mainly retired and relatively rich? Why non recyclers are mainly “young without children – families with children – middle aged without children”? What is the role of architecture?
Property plays a role as well and type of flat (with or without terrace, space limit)
Conclusions will be addressed and special emphasis is going to be given to recycling barriers and problems that must be overlapped. The major conclusions are:
• The human personality provides a barrier for recycling due to species characteristic understanding of temporal scale. Our brain is too much present – focus in order to understand and act according long-term impacts. Information campaigns are not enough for change
• Recycling success is a different story in developed and developing countries. In developed countries it is linked with moral values and responsibility, where in developing countries it is usually linked with survival and daily income. Thus, recycling in developing countries should be faced as a major challenge for global achievements
• Recycling behavior is framed by situational conditions, social- environmental values and personal attitudes. The later determines the intention to recycle while the first the possibility to actually contribute
• Recycling activities should be carefully designed according local conditions and situation, taking into account social-demographic characteristics, architecture, finding the starting point and creating clusters
• For all those reasons there is not a global solution for successful recycling. Instead there is an ocean of bad or inappropriate solutions with some islands of successful ones