Using commitment to promote recycling

What is the boost?

Verbal or written commitment can help promote recycling. People agree either verbally or in writing to recycle more.

Which challenges does the boost tackle?

The waste people produce pollutes the environment. Waste disposal often poses huge problems for local communities, both environmentally and financially. Recycling is an important short-term measure that encourages people to change consumerist behavior.

How does it work?

People commit either verbally or in writing to recycle their waste.

Which competences does the boost foster?

People who have made a commitment recycle their trash more frequently.

What is the evidence behind it?

One study showed that people who made a written commitment were more likely to participate in a free curbside recycling program than people who learned about the opportunity face-to-face, by telephone, or from a flyer. A meta-analysis concluded that commitment leads to both short-term and long-term behavior change, especially compared to a control condition. Average effect sizes were r = .27 for commitment only and r = .31 for commitment plus another treatment in the intervention period, showing that both commitment and commitment + another treatment were significantly more effective than control groups. In the follow-up period the meta-analysis calculated an effect size of r = .18 for commitment only and r = .26 for commitment plus another treatment, showing that commitment can also lead to long-term behavior change.

Key reference

  • Bryce, W. J., Day, R., & Olney, T. J. (1997). Commitment approach to motivating community recycling: New Zealand curbside trial. The Journal of Consumer Affairs, 31(1), 27–52.
  • Cobern, M. K., Porter, B. E., Leeming, F. C., & Dwyer, W. O. (1995). The effect of commitment on adoption and diffusion of grass cycling. Environment and Behavior, 27(2), 213–232.
  • Katzev, R. D., & Pardini, A. U. (1987). The comparative effectiveness of reward and commitment approaches in motivating community recycling. Journal of Environmental Systems, 17(2), 93–113.
  • Lokhorst, A. M., Werner, C., Staats, H., van Dijk, E., & Gale, J. L. (2013). Commitment and behavior change: A meta-analysis and critical review of commitment-making strategies in environmental research. Environment and Behavior, 45(1), 3–34.
  • McCaul, K. D., & Kopp, J. T. (1982). Effects of goal setting and commitment on increasing metal recycling. Journal of Applied Psychology, 67(3), 377–379.
  • Pardini, A. U., & Katzev, R. D. (1983). The effect of strength of commitment on newspaper recycling. Journal of Environmental Systems, 13(3), 245–254.
  • Werner, C. M., Turner, J., Shipman, K., Twitchell, F. S., Dickson, B. R., Bruschke, G. V., & von Bismarck, W. B. (1995). Commitment, behavior, and attitude change: An analysis of voluntary recycling. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 15(3), 197–208.