Inspiring consumers to recycle

Posted by Oliver Koll on Aug 28, 2019

Do you ever think about what happens to recyclable materials after you drop them at the recycling bin? If not, please do: Current research shows that showing how recycled materials can be given a new life inspires consumers’ recycling intentions and behaviours. In a series of experiments, the study shows:

  • Consumers who are confronted with a product transformation message (i.e., what happens with the recycled material afterwards) are significantly more likely to dispose waste in a recycling bin than into a general trash bin (see figure).
  • Recycling behaviour increases even more if consumers see an advertisement that shows which new products are made from recycled plastic compared to companies that “just” inform about their recycling engagement.
  • Click-rates for a Google-ad campaign of a Jeans brand were higher if the campaign included information on how old jeans get recycled (“transform jeans to insulation”) vs. no information on what happens with the disused pair of jeans.
  • Providing product transformation information at recycling stations leads to more and more correct recycling.

Companies and institutions can positively influence consumer recycling behaviour with advertisements by illustrating how recyclables turn into new products. Especially for FMCG companies this style of push for a circular economy will help to motivate consumers to support the brands’ pro-environmental positioning.

Source: Winterich, K. P., Nenkov, G. Y., & Gonzales, G. E. (2019). Knowing What It Makes: How Product Transformation Salience Increases Recycling. Journal of Marketing, 83(4), 21-37.