CE.20.003 – Fostering bottom-up waste recycling

Route: Circular economy

Cluster question: 053 What are the features of a circular economy and how can we achieve it?

Waste reduction, via materials recycling or via waste prevention, is becoming ever more important to combat climate change (as materials transformation typically is more energy-intensive than materials reuse), and to reduce resource depletion. Consumers (i.e., households) play an important role in the transition of the current linear economy to a circular one, as they are key in closing the loop.

We propose to compare the effectiveness of a large number of interventions aimed at fostering residential waste sorting. We make use of a unique data set of, in total, 15 different interventions, implemented in, in total, six of the largest municipalities in the Netherlands. Interventions are aimed at improving organic waste sorting among households living in multi-family dwellings. Interventions take various forms, ranging from facilitating waste sorting, via harnessing social dynamics to in-kind rewarding waste sorting. The data allow us to assess both the short-term and the long-run impact of each of these interventions, and we can also assess whether the interventions strengthened or decreased households’ intrinsic motivation to sort.

This research will provide valuable lessons on how to best close the loop of the circular economy for two reasons. First, organic waste sorting is one of the most difficult types of waste sorting to stimulate, especially so among households living in multi-family dwellings. In this respect, the interventions are put to a severe test regarding their effectiveness. Second, waste sorting is a habit that is difficult to acquire, the benefits of which spillover to other domains as well.


circular economy, consumers, policy incentives, recycling


Organisation Tilburg Sustainability Center, Tilburg University (UvT)
Name Prof.dr. D. (Daan) van Soest
E-mail D.P.vanSoest@tilburguniversity.edu
Website https://www.tilburguniversity.edu/research/institutes-and-research-groups/tsc