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Understanding Household Waste Prevention Behaviour - WR0112

The project aims to establish a reference framework for understanding household waste prevention behaviours. It will deliver (i) primary reviews of relevant academic research and documented case studies, (ii) new data on causal attitudes and demand side drivers, (iii) conceptual and predictive models of the impacts and outcome of alternative policies and management strategies. Activities will include a critical literature review, waste prevention attitude/behaviour surveys and scenario modelling studies. The research will support the implementation of the National Waste Strategies and will meet recommendations made in the Strategy Unit Waste not, Want not report. Results will support the development of optimised strategies for developing or stimulating demand side measures in household waste prevention, quantifying potential impacts. Beneficiaries will include central and local government, campaign groups, supply side organizations, waste consultants and advisors and the research community at large.

The project aims at developing a better critical and scientific understanding of the role and impact of demand side measures on household waste prevention. This is a priority topic within Defra’s Waste and Resources R&D Programme. The research will provide fundamental decision support on how behaviours might be stimulated and mobilised to help fulfill policy objectives, and the likely impacts that would ensue. It is designed to draw together previous research and documented case studies into a single reference source, and to provide a critical appraisal of that reference material. It will also provide new data on fundamental attitudes to waste prevention that will, for example, help planners and campaigners optimize intervention strategies. It also aims to provide forecasts of possible future waste prevention scenarios including impacts and interactions with other waste management practices. Overall, the research aims to provide a foundation reference guide for all stakeholders (cf. Understanding Recycling Behaviour, Tucker 2001).

The project centres on Defra’s Waste and Resource Programme Areas 1.3(ii) and 5.1 (addressing thesocial dimension of household waste prevention), cutting across areas 1.4, 5.3, 8.2 and 8.3. The new research will provide essential support for waste minimisation policy development, operational planning and evaluation, and development of interventions (e.g. persuasive messaging). Most previous research has focused on recycling rather than reduction and reuse, whose concepts appear less well understood by the public, and are generally practiced in relatively small measures (Waste Aware Scotland, 2002, Tucker, 2003). The possible impacts of demand side reduction measures on waste arisings remain relatively poorly quantified. ’Popular’ suggested individual actions (e.g. using own shopping bag, re-chargeable batteries) have small impacts overall, though more concerted approaches can produce more significant waste reductions (e.g. Buchan Countryside Village scheme). Standard waste prevention performance indicators are yet to be derived, though Tucker (2003) suggests possible PIs based on self-reported behaviours. In case studies, the extent of source reduction must generally be inferred from total waste (i.e. residuals + recyclate) time series. Information is also published on waste prevention campaigns mainly funded by LTCS. A review of international waste prevention measures is published by Defra/ Enviros (2004).

Research into recycling has established psychological models of recycling as planned or altruistic or repeated behaviours (see academic reviews by Tucker 2001, 2003). Research by Tucker (2003, 2003b) has demonstrated links between key attitudes (acceptance of responsibility, self-efficacy, negative perceptions, and social norms) and behaviours and to the dynamics of behavioural change. Such attitude/ behavioural links are not yet understood for waste prevention, though research has shown that those behaviours may have fundamentally different roots to recycling (Tucker and Speirs, 2003; Barr et al., 2001). Other related academic papers include Lober (1996) and Berger (1997).

Primary studies (e.g. Tucker, 2001, 2003 for recycling) can feed strongly into policy development and best practice guidance, directly and through citation by other guidance providers (see e.g. Defra/ Entec/ Eunomia, 2004). Currently there is no equivalent study of waste prevention. Its development is an objective of this proposal.

Decision tools for waste forecasting, data collection and management, and performance evaluation (e.g. Wizard, WasteFlow) are already providing valuable assistance to waste management professionals and the need for further developments are recognised in Defra’s R&D Programme. Models enable more complex chains of though to be pursued and options to be tested in advance, reducing uncertainties and minimising risk. Tucker (1999) pioneered the application of artificial-life modelling methods to waste management, and applied the model to predicting the outcomes of future English recycling scenarios to support the Strategy Unit Waste not Want not investigation (Tucker and Speirs, 2002). The proposed extension of that methodology will factor in waste prevention to the overall equation.
1. To provide a comprehensive review of the literature on household waste prevention theory and practice, comprising:

1.1 Academic research worldwide
1.2 Previous UK waste behaviour / attitude surveys
1.3 Documented waste prevention campaign and other case studies
1.4 Quantification of potential impacts on waste arisings

Draft by month 6, final version month 12, test of attainment: draft circulated for peer review by project steering committee.

2. To develop and publish a conceptual framework for understanding based on psychological behavioural and other models.

2.1 Conceptual models

Hypothesis developed by month 5 based on the academic and other review data; Model tested through the behaviour/ attitude survey; validation and revision completed by month 10, test of attainment: a peer review by environmental psychologists.

2.2 Statistical model

To be developed based on the analysis of the behaviour/ attitude survey results, test: peer review by statistician.

3. To design, deploy and analyse the results of a new waste behaviour/ attitude survey

Design by month 6, test: peer review by environmental psychologists.Deployment month 7; test: success judged by a minimum 35% response rate.

4. To integrate waste prevention models into the University of Paisley Integrated Household Waste Management Model and to undertake forecasts of at least 10 possible future waste reduction scenarios.

Test: Peer review of results by waste management professionals.

5. To consolidate all information into a final report (or technical monograph), to include all technical data, analyses and interpretation, and stakeholder guidance, a record of knowledge gaps and recommendations for further research.

Draft report circulated for peer review by month 12, final report published by month 14.
Project Documents
• Final Report : Final Report - Understanding Household Waste Prevention (WR0112)   (166k)
• Abstract : Annex 4 to Final Report - Technical Annex   (396k)
• Final Report - Annex : Annex 1 to Final Report - Literature Review   (561k)
• Final Report - Annex : Annex 2 to Final Report - Results of the Household Attitudinal and Behavioural Survey   (1548k)
• Final Report - Annex : Annex 3 to Final Report - Household Waste Prevention Behavioural Model   (331k)
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2005

To: 2007

Cost: £62,863
Contractor / Funded Organisations
Paisley University, Scotland, SAC Commercial Ltd
Agricultural Waste              
Food and Drink              
Food Hygiene              
Food manufacturing industry              
Manufacturing Efficiency              
Fields of Study
Waste Management