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Recycling at home and work: an exploratory comparison.

McDonald, Seonaidh; Oke, Adekunle


Seonaidh McDonald


Purpose: Recent UK legislation requires businesses to segregate their food waste and present metal, plastic, glass and paper waste for collection separately. Despite decades of research on household recycling, scant attention has been paid to the waste that employees personally create and dispose of within their workplaces. There is an implicit assumption that what is already known about recycling at home will simply transfer into the workplace. However emerging debates in the wider green behaviour literatures suggest that behaviours may not translate straightforwardly into other contexts. Methodology: This paper presents an exploratory study that comprehensively compares recycling at home and work for the first time. A one page questionnaire was hand delivered to 1000 households to ask them to indicate which materials they recycled at home and at work, and allowed them to comment on any differences. A total of 220 responses were received. Findings: The data show recycling in both contexts across the full range of materials. An aggregate analysis shows that people generally recycle in both contexts. However further analysis at the level of individual materials gives a different picture, demonstrating that individuals are less likely to recycle at work than they are at home, suggesting that spillover between these contexts is neither automatic nor consistent. Contribution: Since an individual's behaviour is shown to vary across materials, as well as across contexts this challenges the very notion of the 'recycler?. The findings challenge the extant research norms surrounding recycling research in a number of important ways. The outcome of this study is a set of six propositions which set out a future research agenda for the investigation of recycling behaviour in general, and workplaces in particular, in terms of unit of analysis, multiple material streams, and multiple contexts. Limitations: Although this study gives insights into new areas and provides the basis for building future research agendas in the waste management field, it is very much exploratory in nature. In particular the questionnaire used was very simplistic in order to facilitate a healthy return rate from a sampling method which was known to include a significant proportion of recipients ineligible to reply (as they did not work outside the home). Although this was a successful strategy in terms of obtaining a large enough sample, it means that the data collected are only able to be analysed in a very limited way.


MCDONALD, S. and OKE, A. 2018. Recycling at home and work: an exploratory comparison. Social business [online], 8(2), pages 145-165. Available from:

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Feb 5, 2018
Online Publication Date Jun 1, 2018
Publication Date Jun 30, 2018
Deposit Date Feb 12, 2018
Publicly Available Date Dec 2, 2019
Journal Social business
Print ISSN 2044-4087
Electronic ISSN 2044-9860
Publisher Westburn Publishers
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 8
Issue 2
Pages 145-165
Keywords Recycling; Domestic waste; Household waste; Commercial waste; Workplace recycling; Spill over
Public URL


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