Macquarie University, Australia
Recycling can be characterized as an intended environmentally significant behavior (Stern 2000) – if done with the intention to influence the environment. But, even when conducted for other reasons, such as monetary reward, recycling is still environmentally significant because it influences the distribution and use of environmental goods. Recycling is carried out mostly in the private sphere, similar to behaviors such as buying and boycotting certain products or improving the energy efficiency of one's home. This private nature differentiates it from public environmental behaviors such as activism and protest, and less costly political behaviors such as signing a petition, contacting a politician, and donating money to environmental organizations.
The United Nations Environmental Program fact sheet on resource efficiency (UNEP 2010) calls for efficient production and consumption and considers recycling an important factor in this process. UNEP promotes recycling, particularly in developing countries, by discussing a basic reduce, reuse, and recycle approach with national and local governments.
The use and reuse of resources is usually considered an important measure for achieving sustainable consumption. Nonetheless, its usefulness in financial terms and environmental impact is sometimes questioned. Shaw (2008) summarizes these arguments and discusses the following ...