Increasing amounts of disposable food packaging waste are contributing towards a global environmental crisis, and approaches to successfully preventing such waste—called precycling
—are urgently needed. The human ability to define oneself as a member of a group (social identity) may represent a powerful source for realizing environmental endeavors. Therefore, in this article we conceptualize precycling behavior in households as pro-environmental behavior embedded in social identity processes. To explore precycling, we combined food diaries and qualitative virtual interviews with 26 households in Berlin, Germany. We analyzed our data based on the Social Identity Model of Pro-Environmental Action (SIMPEA). Starting from the behavioral element of the model (response), we substantiate the concept of precycling suggesting that it can be distinguished into six types of behavior. Furthermore, we propose that the enactment of these precycling behaviors is shaped by social identity processes and social influence in different groups, including: the household itself, neighbors, family and friends, or food collectives. We conclude that these processes are important to realizing precycling in small and private groups as well as in larger collectives. Implications are derived for empirical research and theoretical development as well as for public programs and intervention studies.
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