An Empirical Test of an Expanded Version of the Theory of Planned Behavior in Predicting Recycling Behavior on Campus

By Largo-Wight, Erin; Bian, Hui et al. | American Journal of Health Education, March-April 2012 | Go to article overview

An Empirical Test of an Expanded Version of the Theory of Planned Behavior in Predicting Recycling Behavior on Campus


Largo-Wight, Erin, Bian, Hui, Lange, Lori, American Journal of Health Education


ABSTRACT

Background: The study and promotion of environmental health behaviors, such as recycling, is an emerging focus in public health. Purpose: This study was designed to examine the determinants of recycling intention on a college campus. Methods: Undergraduate students (N = 189) completed a 35-item web-based survey past findings and an expanded version of the Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB). Path analytic models were examined with bootstrapping method. Results: The path coefficients revealed that all of the direct paths were statistically significant except the direct path from descriptive norm to behavioral intention. The model explained 49.3% of the variance in recycling intention. The strongest predictors of campus recycling intention were moral obligation and behavioral attitudes. Discussion: The expanded version of the TPB proved to be a sound theoretical framework to study the determinants of recycling on campus. Overall, the model components had a large effect on recycling intention. Translation to Health Education Practice: Using behavior change theory to understand recycling behavior is prerequisite to evidenced-based recycling interventions. These findings should be used to guide campus recycling interventions.

Largo-Wight E, Bian H, Lange L. An empirical test of an expanded version of the theory of planned behavior in predicting recycling behavior on campus. Am J Health Educ. 2012;43(2):66-73. Submitted May 7, 2011. Accepted August 3, 2011.

BACKGROUND

This study was designed to predict the determinants of an environmental health behavior and emerging public health priority, waste recycling behavior. Recycling is a form of primary prevention that protects the environment and natural resources and therefore protects and promotes the health of the public. (1) More specifically, recycling municipal waste reduces the need to harvest raw material for production, reduces emissions from waste incinerators and landfills, and reduces production-related energy use. (2) In 2009, for example, Americans recycled 82 million tons of solid waste (33.8% of total municipal solid waste), which "saved almost 1.3 quadrillion Btu of energy, the equivalent of 224 million barrels of oil." (3) The ultimate benefits of recycling are cleaner land, air, and water and a healthier and more sustainable economy. (3-5) Recycling waste protects the health of the public. (3)

Despite the health benefits of waste recycling, Americans do not consistently engage in recycling behavior. In 2009, each American created approximately 1,600 pounds of trash. Approximately 90% of this trash could have been recycled or composted, but a little over a third of that was actually recycled (33.8% in 2009). (3,6,7) Healthy People 2010 was among the first national public health initiatives to highlight the importance of increasing waste recycling for the health of the public. Specifically, objective 8-15 focused on increasing waste recycling behavior from 27% (baseline in 1997) to 38% (goal by 2010). (8) Healthy People 2020: Improving the Health of Americans continues to emphasize the importance of recycling for the health of the public. Objective EH-12 goal is to increase municipal waste recycling behavior by 10% in the 2010-2020 decade (from 33% baseline in 2008). (9)

Recycling on College Campuses

This recycling study took place on a collage campus. Recent recycling programs such as "RecycleMania" have targeted colleges and universities because they "... are small cities that consume large amounts of resources and generate much solid waste." (10) These small "cities" house thousands to tens of thousands of undergraduate and graduate students each year and many times colleges are the largest employer in a community. Thus, colleges have the potential to significantly contribute to a community's waste stream. Recycling (or lack thereof) on college campuses could have significant impact on the health of the public.

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