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The large-scale collective action dilemma of recycling: Exploring the role of trust

Working paper
Authors Frida Nilsson
Niklas Harring
Publication year 2017
Published at Department of Political Science
Department of Economics
Language en
Keywords Trust, Recycling, Large-scale collective action
Subject categories Political Science


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’ tendency to recycle. Inherent features of household recycling propose however that a large-scale collective action framework should be relevant when analyzing this activity, which suggests that trust, especially institutional trust, should increase recycling frequency. This paper consequently does three things: firstly, it examines whether institutional trust is linked to individuals’ tendency to recycle, secondly, it tests the role of generalized trust; and third, the paper provides a new theoretical approach when testing the link, which would result in a positive relationship of institutional trust on 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 Quality of Government on reported household recycling. However, we find no support for a curvilinear relationship. Findings suggest that institutional trust has a role to play in household recycling, but that this relationship should benefit from further examination

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