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Sustainability 2018, 10(12), 4794; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10124794

Decisions on Recycling or Waste: How Packaging Functions Affect the Fate of Used Packaging in Selected Swedish Households

1
Service Research Center and Department of Engineering and Chemical Sciences, Karlstad University, SE-651 88 Karlstad, Sweden
2
School of Business, Örebro University, 702 81 Örebro, Sweden
3
Service Research Center and Department of Social and Psychological Studies, Karlstad University, SE-651 88 Karlstad, Sweden
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 3 October 2018 / Revised: 29 November 2018 / Accepted: 11 December 2018 / Published: 15 December 2018
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Abstract

The intention of this paper is to learn more about why consumers choose whether or not to recycle, with special attention given to the functions of the packaging itself, in order to provide suggestions for improvements in packaging design, recycling systems and the environmental assessment of different packaging designs. The study focussed on ten households in Sweden that where motivated to participate in the study in order to gain an understanding of the complex matter of this decision-making process. The intention of implementing an interview-based qualitative study was to gain rich data and to reach beyond the respondents’ immediate verbal responses. The respondents were interviewed with open-ended questions, which were supported with pictures of packaging; additionally, their waste bins were examined. This explorative study suggests a set of obstacles that cause consumers to dispose of packaging relating to the functions of packaging. The different obstacles that determine whether or not packaging is recycled were organised according to three different themes: the attitude towards cleanliness, the effort required to clean and sort and uncertainties about the best environmental alternative. The different functions of packaging do in fact influence all of the identified themes and; therefore, influence the decisions consumers make with regards to the recycling of specific packaging. The identified packaging functions were easy to separate different materials, easy to separate different parts, easy to clean, easy to empty, easy to reseal, easy to compress and communication regarding recycling. Consumer behaviour with regards to specific packaging functions and recycling should be further investigated. It should also be considered for inclusion in design processes, to increase the chance of materials being recycled, and in food-packaging life-cycle assessments, to provide results that align more closely with reality. View Full-Text
Keywords: packaging waste; packaging functions; environmental impact; content properties; behaviour; attitudes packaging waste; packaging functions; environmental impact; content properties; behaviour; attitudes
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).
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Williams, H.; Wikström, F.; Wetter-Edman, K.; Kristensson, P. Decisions on Recycling or Waste: How Packaging Functions Affect the Fate of Used Packaging in Selected Swedish Households. Sustainability 2018, 10, 4794.

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