FMCG and the Environment: Lots of questions, few answers.

Posted by Oliver Koll on Mar 22, 2019

Reducing and recycling waste requires a systematic effort from many stakeholders. Currently, retailers and manufacturers sometimes replace plastic packaging with paper-based and biodegradable alternatives. This is partly a result of social pressure from specific consumer segments, activities by NGOs, and partly a consequence of legal requirements. Shoppers need to contribute too and their attitudes and behaviours with respect to recycling has been the focus of several scientific papers*.

  • Intrinsic motivation and affect like concerns for the environment, personal satisfaction of doing something “good”, but also feeling guilty for lack of recycling increases the likelihood of recycling.
  • Not surprisingly, consumers with a stronger and more positive attitude towards recycling (e.g., “Recycling is important for the planet”) show stronger intentions to actually recycle compared to shoppers with weaker attitudes.
  • Consumers who have little routine with regard to recycling rarely change their future intentions to recycle more.
  • How much a product’s form changes during the consumption process influences disposal decisions. For example, if an aluminium can is dented after drinking a soft drink, shoppers are more likely to throw away than recycle the can!
  • Products that are linked to the personality or to an important social reference group (e.g., nationality) are more likely to be recycled than thrown away. For example, if a package shows a symbol shoppers can identify with, the odds of recycling increase (see figure).

During the next few months Europanel will run a global study on shoppers’ attitudes and behaviour with respect to the environment. We will investigate people’s concern about the environment, their attitudes with respect to sustainability efforts by corporations, their evaluation regarding various mechanisms to reduce plastics, and their assessment of categories and brands with respect to sustainability and environmental harm. Also, we will link these attitudes with purchasing data to understand how different shopper types (premium vs. budget, heavy vs. light in a category, etc.) differ with respect to their environmental beliefs and actual behaviours. For more information please get in touch.



  • Biswas, A., Licata, J. W., McKee, D., Pullig, C., & Daughtridge, C. (2000). The recycling cycle: An empirical examination of consumer waste recycling and recycling shopping behaviors. Journal of Public Policy & Marketing, 19(1), 93-105.
  • Knussen, C., & Yule, F. (2008). “I’m Not in the Habit of Recycling” The Role of Habitual Behavior in the Disposal of Household Waste. Environment and Behavior, 40(5), 683-702.
  • Trudel, R., & Argo, J. J. (2013). The effect of product size and form distortion on consumer recycling behavior. Journal of Consumer Research, 40(4), 632-643.
  • Trudel, R., Argo, J. J., & Meng, M. D. (2016). The recycled self: consumers’ disposal decisions of identity-linked products. Journal of Consumer Research, 43(2), 246-264.