Do past habits affect present household waste recycling levels among individuals? - A study on university students in Sweden
The body of literature in environmental economics broadly documents the role of household waste recycling in determining the quality of the environment. Social norms and attitudes closely affect recycling behavior among individuals. However, the influence of habits on the adoption of pro-environmental behavior, especially recycling, is an avenue that remains largely under-discussed. Following a theoretical framework based on reference dependence and the theory of planned behavior, we investigate whether past recycling behavior, after controlling for preferences, can affect current recycling levels. We survey university students in Sweden and find distinctions between recycling practices of local and international respondents. While there is a convergence in recycling behavior among the two subsamples, the existing gap can be explained by habit formation. We conclude that lower past recycling levels and norms can hold back individuals from fully adopting a recycling practice to local levels in a new society that recycles at a greater degree.
MSc in Economics