Pro-environmental Attitudes, Local Environmental Conditions and Recycling Behavior

Corrado LuisaFazio AndreaPelloni Alessandra
CEIS Research Paper
The paper uses Italian official survey data collected in 2012 from more than 20 thousand households to shed light on the determinants of people’s proenvironmental behavior, more specifically the differentiation of domestic waste disposal. A rich interdisciplinary literature has developed to explain why people may make eco-friendly choices, which come at a personal cost and provide benefits accruing largely to other people. The paper contributes to this investigation by jointly considering non-economic (a declared general interest in environmental issues), economic (easy access to recycling bins) and contextual (the perceived condition of the local environment) determinants of recycling. Main results are that a higher general interest in environmental issues pushes people, on average, to increase recycling by 7.5 percentage points, while easy access to facilities increases recycling by 5.3 percentage points. More educated households are also more inclined to behave pro-environmentally: a university degree or a Ph.D. increases the probability of recycling by 5.2 percentage points. Finally, the paper provides evidence that people locally perceiving environmental degradation are 5.8 percentage points less likely to recycle. These results may be explained by bounded rationality and/or to conditional social cooperation, which both may lead to an environmental poverty trap. The final message is that the evidence so gathered on the role of intrinsic motivations, bounded rationality and social preferences in governing behavior is difficult to reconcile with the “homo oeconomicus” hypothesis still prevailing in standard economic theory and that these “non economic” determinants have to be properly considered in the formulation of effective environmental policies.

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Number: 513
Keywords: Pro-Environmental Behavior, Intrinsic Motivation, Recycling, Environmental Degradation
JEL codes: Q57,Q53,R11,D91
Volume: 19
Issue: 4
Date: Thursday, September 2, 2021
Revision Date: Friday, November 12, 2021