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New Publication: Recycling as a Large-Scale Collective Action Dilemma: A Cross-Country Study on Trust and Reported Recycling Behavior

News: Sep 27, 2018

Author: Niklas Harring, Sverker C. Jagers, and Frida Nilsson

Abstract: Household recycling contributes to environmental sustainability goals by limiting the extraction of natural resources. Previous literature has mapped out several factors, mainly at the individual level, that tend to increase individuals’ tendencies to recycle. Inherent features of household recycling, however, suggest that a large-scale collective action framework should be relevant when analyzing this activity, meaning that trust, especially institutional trust, should increase recycling frequency. This paper consequently does four things: First, it examines whether institutional trust is linked to individuals’ tendencies to report recycling; second, it tests the role of generalized trust for reported recycling behavior; third, it looks at the relationship between institutional quality at the country level and reported recycling behavior; and fourth, the paper provides a new theoretical approach to test the link between trust and behavior, which is hypothesized to result in a positive relationship between institutional trust and recycling behavior but with a negative relationship among the most trusting individuals (i.e. a curvilinear overall relationship). Support is found for a positive link between generalized trust, institutional trust, and institutional quality as a country-level factor on reported household recycling. However, we find no support for a curvilinear relationship. Findings imply that institutional trust has a role to play in household recycling, but this relationship should benefit from further examination.

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