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Doctoral thesis2011Open access

Today's perfect - tomorrow's standard : the role of consumers and the limits of policy in recycling

Kågström, Jonas


In this study the mechanisms influencing recycling rates around the system maximum are deliberated. On the one hand, Policies, System design and how Citizens understand the two aforementioned are pitted against each other. This is done in a setting where individual rewards from action are in turn set against the values of the community and the compliance measures/social marketing of recycling companies and policy makers. This is the dynamic setting of this dissertation. In the past much research into recycling has been focused on how to get recycling started. Sweden is in a bit of a different position with recycling levels often being very high in an international comparison. This means other challenges face citizens and policy makers alike. The determinants influencing recycling rates are studied and compared to contemporary research. Policy makers and social marketers that wish to see a system used to its fullest need to understand the determinants that remain to be influenced near the system optimum. The studied recycling system points to a trichotomy of determinants influencing recycling rates. Social or public marketing being one part; the community's understanding of recycling being a second part, and individual knowledge and understanding forming the third. Successive elimination of potential determinants in a Zwicky box, using statistical analysis, indicates that strengthening individual autonomy and ability to participate efficiently remains as the key to further and sustainable development in the field. The study suggests compliance rates can still be improved upon, even when recycling rates are in excess of 80%, although methods might have to change. Instead of an oft used emphasis on coercive compliance and "scare tactics", a careful study and propagation of the recycling techniques developed by the many efficient citizens is pivotal. In addition, further improvements in terms of recycling facilitation may offer policy makers a sustainable path to near system optimal recycling rates.


recycling; policies; consumers; decision making; consumer behaviour; social participation; marketing; statistical methods; economic theories; philosophy

Published in

Acta Universitatis Agriculturae Sueciae
2011, number: 2011:33
ISBN: 978-91-576-7568-2
Publisher: Department of Economics, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Economics and Business

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