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Comparative Study of Understanding Recycling Behavior of University Students

Prabhakar Shrestha, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


The intent of this research was to understand what behavioral economic factors motivate students to perform recycling behavior on a college campus. Three prominent theories that explain human behavior, namely the theory of planned behavior, microeconomics framework based single interest theory, and the metaeconomic framework based dual interest theory were compared. Data for this research was collected by using an online survey tool called Qualtrics. The Registrar's office at University of Nebraska-Lincoln provided random email addresses of around 5000 students enrolled during Spring 2013. The students were asked several questions regarding their beliefs, values, and attitudes related to their on campus recycling behavior. The respondents were also asked to answer several behavioral economic questions to assess how their mind works while making environmental decisions. The students were also asked general demographic questions like income, education, gender, major, and residency status (on campus or off campus). Data obtained from the survey were analyzed using SPSS and SAS software programs. Ordinary Least Square (OLS) regression models were constructed to empirically test and compare models. Adjusted R2 values were used to compare the models and find the best fit. Akaike Information Criterion (AIC) was used to quantify and compare models to select a model with the least K-L information loss. Based on higher adjusted R2 values obtained from the OLS regression models, the Dual Interest Theory based Dual Motive Model (DMM) was found to be the best model to explain recycling behavior of university students. Also, based on the AIC values, the DMM was found to the best model with the least K-L information loss. The OLS regression indicated strong empirical evidence of the role of other human tendencies like control, self-control, habit, selfish-empathy in explaining a students' recycling behavior. Individuals are motivated by self-interest related reasons while also tempering these tendencies due to connecting with the shared cause of norms, traditions and culture surrounding the sustainability program. Institutes of higher learning like universities can help in evolving otherwise providing that shared cause which students can connect. Sustainability efforts and behavioral change programs are such pathways to bring students together for the shared cause of recycling.

Subject Area

Behavioral psychology|Environmental economics|Natural Resource Management|Higher education

Recommended Citation

Shrestha, Prabhakar, "Comparative Study of Understanding Recycling Behavior of University Students" (2014). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3618819.