Waste reduction behaviors at home, at work, and on holiday: What influences behavioral consistency across contexts?

Lorraine E. Whitmarsh, Paul Haggar, Merryn Thomas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Citations (SciVal)


Demand for materials is increasing, along with the environmental damage associated with material extraction, processing transport and waste management. While many people state they recycle at home, adoption of sustainable waste practices in the workplace and other contexts (particularly, on holiday) is often lower. Understanding how to promote more sustainable behaviors (including, but also going beyond, recycling) across a range of contexts remains a key challenge for policy-makers and researchers. The Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB) has been applied to a range of environmentally-friendly behaviors but the relative importance of the model's predictors has not yet been explored across a range of contexts. Here, we test the TPB across workplace (laboratory and office), home and holiday contexts, and examine whether consistency across contexts is a function of pro-environmental identity. Following ten semi-structured interviews, we undertook an online survey with laboratory workers (primarily in the UK; N = 213) to examine the predictors of recycling and waste reduction habits across these contexts. Interview findings indicate a range of motivations and barriers to recycling in the workplace, and inconsistency across home and work behaviors. Expanding the focus to include holiday as well as workplace and home contexts, our survey analysis shows that the proportion of waste recycled in the home is higher (67%) than in the workplace (39%) and on holiday (38%). Further, the TPB explained around twice as much variance in home recycling compared to work or holiday recycling; but overall did not provide a good explanation for recycling. The study highlights the importance of both contextual (e.g., facilities) and individual (e.g., identity) factors in shaping waste behaviors. We find significant correlations amongst different waste reduction behaviors within and between contexts, though within-context (e.g., home) behaviors are generally more strongly related. Future research should move beyond the TPB to expand the range of contextual (e.g., organizational) factors explored in contexts beyond the home, including workplace and holiday contexts. Given the different drivers-of and barriers-to waste reduction within and between contexts, a range of interventions will be required to promote recycling, reduction and reuse behaviors across these contexts.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2447
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Issue numberDEC
Publication statusPublished - 6 Dec 2018


  • Habits
  • Recycling
  • Spillover
  • Theory of planned behavior
  • Waste reduction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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