The impact of communication and proximity on citizens’ sustainable disposal of e-waste

Diletta Acuti, Linda Lemarie, Giampaolo Viglia

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Purpose – This paper demonstrates how decision-makers can enhance citizens' sustainable e-waste disposal through bin proximity and ad hoc communication. Specifically, we discuss a 2-year research project in Northern Italy where we documented the number of products disposed sustainably in four towns.

Design/methodology/approach – The project involved five main groups of stakeholders: i) four municipalities, ii) one social purpose organization employing people with disabilities (i.e., Andromeda), iii) one provider of bins (i.e., PubliCittà), iv) another social purpose organization entity (i.e., Fondazione CRT) and v) the University of Portsmouth. After conducting three online pilot tests to confirm our expectations regarding enhancing citizens’ sustainable e-waste disposal, we successfully implemented the field pilot program in a small municipality and three other towns. Finally, we measured our program's impact on citizens' actual recycling rate for the three target municipalities.

Findings – We found that the positioning of drop-off bins in such a way as to reduce their distance from as many households as possible, along with the use of communication that facilitates the understanding of information related to sustainable disposal schemes, can improve the citizens’ sustainable disposal of e-waste. After the intervention, the sustainable disposal of exhausted batteries, toners, and electronics significantly improved in the three municipalities that adopted the disposal scheme (Saluggia, San Benigno Canavese, and Santhiá).

Research limitation – We believe it would be cautious to consider potential differences in recycling cultures and facilities before implementing the program in other countries.

Practical implications – Our contribution shows decision-makers how to design disposal schemes to enhance citizens' sustainable behavior effectively. We demonstrate how the thoughtful and responsible use of marketing levers can improve environmental sustainability and social development.

Social implications - This paper impacts society by changing citizens’ disposal behavior, reducing harm to the environment and human wellbeing, and supporting the inclusion of disadvantaged people in sustainability-oriented programs.

Originality – The structured and equitable engagement of scholars with multiple stakeholders can lead to the co-creation of societal value and knowledge and improve the well-being of numerous stakeholders. The collaboration between academics and practitioners enables the definition of effective strategies by observing the actual disposal behavior of individuals (i.e., citizens). It offers a direct and measurable impact on society. The involvement of social purpose organizations reinforces the shared primary aim of achieving measurable social and environmental impact.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Journal of Marketing
Early online date9 Oct 2023
Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2023


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