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  • Writer's pictureJulie de Vaan

Collecting and separating empty packaging: These are the 5 key drivers for consumers

Updated: Jun 22

Waste collection and separation are crucial for circularity, recycling, and combating waste and pollution. Therefore, it is important for companies in the waste management and food industries that consumers return their empty packaging correctly. But how can they encourage this behavior in consumers?

To achieve that, it is important to first understand how consumer behavior is formed. This way, you'll know what factors to consider if you want to effectively influence decision-making processes. In this article, we will outline the five key drivers for waste collection and separation.


What is the consumers' attitude towards the environment, sustainability, and waste separation? And how important is it to them? This depends, for example, on their personal norms, environmental knowledge and awareness, and their perception of waste's value.

Consumers with a positive attitude towards waste collection and separation can be best encouraged by emphasizing the sustainability aspect. Other consumers may be better motivated by highlighting different aspects (such as a pleasant and clean environment) or by increasing the actual value of waste (e.g., through deposit systems).

Perceived Utility

Additionally, it is important for consumers to feel that waste collection and separation are useful and have an impact. This often relies on the perceptibility of positive effects. Provide insights into the consequences of their own behavior, the steps your company takes, and what it achieves.


Do consumers feel capable of collecting and separating their waste? Do they have confidence that they can make an impact through their actions? This is connected to perceived utility, a sense of control, and feasibility.

You can enhance self-efficacy by providing clarity on the recycling process and what is expected of the consumer. Where does the consumer's responsibility begin and end? Make sure not to overwhelm consumers with their expected actions (e.g., "You return it, we'll take care of the rest").


Many consumers are largely influenced by prevailing norms when it comes to their behavior, including waste collection and separation. Ensure that the correct (social) norm is conveyed, for example, by clearly stating what is expected of the consumer and by making the desired behavior as visible and easy as possible.


If consumers are not highly motivated to collect or separate their waste correctly, they will often resort to the easiest option or stick to their usual habits. Therefore, make waste collection and separation as easy and convenient as possible.

To promote waste collection and separation, you can utilize these five drivers by incorporating them into your plans, actions, and communications. The specific approach will depend on the practical situation. Consider factors such as the target audience, the type of packaging, product, or location. If you're serious about waste collection and separation, behavioral experts are here to assist you with a thorough analysis and tailored advice for your specific situation.

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