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Sustainability 2010, 2(9), 2799-2813; doi:10.3390/su2092799

Uncertainty Regarding Waste Handling in Everyday Life

1
Department of Urban Planning and Environment, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Drottning Kristinas väg 30, SE-100 44 Stockholm, Sweden
2
Department of Cultural Sciences, Lund University, P.O. Box 117, SE-221 00 Lund, Sweden
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 15 July 2010 / Revised: 15 August 2010 / Accepted: 25 August 2010 / Published: 3 September 2010
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Abstract

According to our study, based on interviews with households in a residential area in Sweden, uncertainty is a cultural barrier to improved recycling. Four causes of uncertainty are identified. Firstly, professional categories not matching cultural categories—people easily discriminate between certain categories (e.g., materials such as plastic and paper) but not between others (e.g., packaging and “non-packaging”). Thus a frequent cause of uncertainty is that the basic categories of the waste recycling system do not coincide with the basic categories used in everyday life. Challenged habits—source separation in everyday life is habitual, but when a habit is challenged, by a particular element or feature of the waste system, uncertainty can arise. Lacking fractions—some kinds of items cannot be left for recycling and this makes waste collection incomplete from the user’s point of view and in turn lowers the credibility of the system. Missing or contradictory rules of thumb—the above causes seem to be particularly relevant if no motivating principle or rule of thumb (within the context of use) is successfully conveyed to the user. This paper discusses how reducing uncertainty can improve recycling.
Keywords: cultural categories; waste; everyday life; habits; environmental sustainability; social practices cultural categories; waste; everyday life; habits; environmental sustainability; social practices
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 3.0).

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MDPI and ACS Style

Henriksson, G.; Åkesson, L.; Ewert, S. Uncertainty Regarding Waste Handling in Everyday Life. Sustainability 2010, 2, 2799-2813.

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