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Recycling as a large-scale collective action dilemma: A cross-country study on trust and reported recycling behavior

Journal article
Authors Niklas Harring
Sverker C. Jagers
Frida Nilsson
Published in Resources Conservation and Recycling
Volume 140
Pages 85-90
ISSN 0921-3449
Publication year 2019
Published at Department of Political Science
Department of Economics
Pages 85-90
Language en
Keywords Household recycling, Institutional trust, Generalized trust, Institutional quality, Cross-country data, environmental-protection, generalized trust, political trust, social, dilemmas, waste, state, cooperation, willingness, perspective, reciprocity, Engineering, Environmental Sciences & Ecology, holz jt, 1995, american journal of political science, v39, p490
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' 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 fmd 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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