People More Likely to Recycle Items that Reflect Their Identity

Connector Winter 2017

Starbucks might be on to something, at least when their baristas spell people’s names right.

That’s one of the conclusions made by a joint study by a University of Alberta researcher, marketing professor Jennifer Argo, and researchers out of Boston University.

According to the study, people are less likely to simply toss an item of trash in the garbage – rather than into a recycle bin – when it shows a little bit about themselves – their name, a symbol of the culture they identify with, or a brand they like, as a few examples.

The study found that people were more likely to recycle a spent item if they felt it represented themselves to some extent.

“If a product has your name on it, or was made in Canada, or has your job or your place of employment on it, our findings basically show that people are more likely to recycle a product with one of those links on it,” Argo said.

“In essence, people do not want to trash a part of the self.”

The testing for this joint study took place in Boston,where people were given different cups with bits of water to drink. Some of the cups had the subject’s name on it, others had the subject’s name spelled incorrectly and others had nothing at all. The participants were more likely to recycle the cups only when their name was spelled properly on them.

This was also replicated with flags and university logos, as opposed to names.

Still other tests posed respondents with hypothetical situations in which people imagined themselves in a preset narrative and indicated how they would respond. For example, people were asked how they would dispose of an empty Coke or Pepsi can in a work lunch room. Some respondents were more likely to recycle their favoured brand.

Source: Edmonton Examiner