Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)


Sociology, Social Work, and Anthropology

Committee Chair(s)

Douglas Jackson-Smith


Douglas Jackson-Smith


Peggy Petrzelka


Arthur Caplan


Diversion rates of solid waste due to recycling and other efforts vary across communities for multiple reasons. Past research has provided demographic and attitudinal profiles of recyclers and non-recyclers at mainly the individual and household levels with some at the community level. Researchers have found both commonalities and variations in these profiles. Studies have also looked at how the structure of a recycling program influences recycling behavior. The question asked here is how community-level demographic and attitudinal characteristics interact with the structure of public recycling programs to influence aggregate rates of recycling participation and diversion in 40 cities in the western United States.

The results of this study provide modest support for my hypotheses that when recycling programs are less convenient, demographics and attitudinal characteristics will explain more variation in diversion of waste at the community scale. Similarly, as recycling programs become more convenient, the roles of demographic and attitudinal factors (recycling friendliness) are expected to decrease. This study found increased recycling program convenience and less visible fee assessment structures were associated with higher rates of recycling among cities regardless of their degree of recycling friendliness. When recycling outcomes were cross tabulated with indicators convenience and fee assessment, low rates were generally found among cities with low program convenience and high rates were generally found among cities with high program convenience. Cities with less convenient programs were more likely to see higher rates of recycling when their underlying demographic and attitudinal attributes reflected characteristics that have been associated with increased recycling activity. However, when program convenience was high (and fee structures less visible) high rates of recycling were found across cities with both favorable and unfavorable demographic characteristics. I use case-specific detailed narratives to explore the factors that influence outcomes among selected cities that did or did not meet my expectations.




This work made publicly available electronically on November 21, 2011.

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