Increasing Paper Recycling in Portland Oregon Dormitories Using Incentives and Commitment

Wang, T. H. & Katzev, R. D. (1990). Group commitment and resource conservation: Two field experiments on promoting recycling. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 20, 4, Part 1, 265-275.
After conducting a literature review, two behavior change tools were incorporated into a pilot program designed to increase the amount of paper being recycled in a Portland Oregon dormitory. Both commitment and incentives have been effective in encouraging recycling behavior. Therefore, the pilot program compared four groups of dorm residents' recycling habits. The group commitment participants signed a pledge form as a unit to recycle for four weeks. On the other hand, the individual commitment participants signed a form by themselves. Also, another group was offered incentives. These participants were given coupons for local business on the condition that more than half of their group recycled during a given week. Finally, a control group was given only information pamphlets and recycling bags. The frequency of recycling behavior was measured during the four week intervention period as well as during a three week follow-up phase.

During the intervention period, the three treatment groups showed a dramatic increase in recycling. Paper recycling for the group commitment, incentive and individual commitment conditions were 48%, 54% and 67% respectively. Conversely, the information only group increased by only 9%. Moreover, participants in the individual commitment group continued to recycle paper during the follow-up period.
Site Courtesy of
McKenzie-Mohr & Associates

Expertise in Community-Based Social Marketing