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Biowaste Non-Sorters : who cares. Examining arguments and factors from citizens not sorting biowaste in Copenhagen and recommendations for a way forward

Touveneau Petersen, Stephanie LU (2018) In Master Thesis Series in Environmental Studies and Sustainability Science MESM02 20181
LUCSUS (Lund University Centre for Sustainability Studies)
Abstract
The Danes’ have the highest municipal waste generation per capita in the European Union and it is
estimated that 40% of residual waste is biowaste. Fortunately, it is possible to address environmental
pressures and counteract resource loss from incineration by the process of bio-gasification of
collected biowaste in Denmark. However, despite efforts to reduce barriers of convenience and
accessibility in a newly implemented biowaste sorting scheme, 24% of Copenhageners do not sort
biowaste. This study aimed to examine influences contributing to and/or reinforcing non-sorting
practices and therefore asked: what influences people to not sort biowaste in Copenhagen?

Studies provide limited evidence of socio-economic or demographic... (More)
The Danes’ have the highest municipal waste generation per capita in the European Union and it is
estimated that 40% of residual waste is biowaste. Fortunately, it is possible to address environmental
pressures and counteract resource loss from incineration by the process of bio-gasification of
collected biowaste in Denmark. However, despite efforts to reduce barriers of convenience and
accessibility in a newly implemented biowaste sorting scheme, 24% of Copenhageners do not sort
biowaste. This study aimed to examine influences contributing to and/or reinforcing non-sorting
practices and therefore asked: what influences people to not sort biowaste in Copenhagen?

Studies provide limited evidence of socio-economic or demographic characteristics for
(non)recyclers. Still, non-sorters tend to be portrayed, in Danish grey literature, as one group, the
“indifferent”, who are unwilling to sort. Therefore, limited in-depth knowledge exists about nonsorters
in Copenhagen. This study is based on a social-environmental problem-solving perspective,
and its findings support a solution-oriented way forward.

Interviews with 11 non-sorting households provided first-hand insight into what influences the
citizens. Findings across respondents showed that practical, societal and rational arguments, as well
as numerous distinctive factors, influenced their non-sorting practices. However, what influence
respondents not to sort are neither simple within individual households nor across. From this,
examining individual households’ most influential factors, findings showed factors relating to
practical arguments are most numerous, but suggest that factors related to societal and rational
arguments are highly influential when present, despite small in numbers. Further, five of the 11
households had previously sorted biowaste, but stopped, which supports studies suggesting that a
strict distinction of sorters and non-sorters is an erroneous dichotomy. Moreover, questions of scale
and fear of freeriding, challenges the positive biowaste-environment correlation found, which have
altruistic potential.

The findings suggest that seeing non-sorters homogenously gives an incomplete understanding, and
considering heterogeneity unravelled non-sorters who care, know and are willing to sort biowaste.
Thus interventions in line with the findings could push for more sorting, hence a list of
recommendations was created. Knowledge accumulated could benefit policy-makers and
stakeholders working within the field municipal waste management and resource recovery in
Copenhagen and similar cities. (Less)
Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:
author
Touveneau Petersen, Stephanie LU
supervisor
organization
course
MESM02 20181
year
type
H2 - Master's Degree (Two Years)
subject
keywords
biowaste, recycling, waste hierarchy, municipal waste management, urban resource management, phosphorous recovery
publication/series
Master Thesis Series in Environmental Studies and Sustainability Science
report number
2018:027
language
English
id
8948324
date added to LUP
2018-06-14 10:27:19
date last changed
2018-06-14 10:27:19
@misc{8948324,
  abstract     = {The Danes’ have the highest municipal waste generation per capita in the European Union and it is
estimated that 40% of residual waste is biowaste. Fortunately, it is possible to address environmental
pressures and counteract resource loss from incineration by the process of bio-gasification of
collected biowaste in Denmark. However, despite efforts to reduce barriers of convenience and
accessibility in a newly implemented biowaste sorting scheme, 24% of Copenhageners do not sort
biowaste. This study aimed to examine influences contributing to and/or reinforcing non-sorting
practices and therefore asked: what influences people to not sort biowaste in Copenhagen?

Studies provide limited evidence of socio-economic or demographic characteristics for
(non)recyclers. Still, non-sorters tend to be portrayed, in Danish grey literature, as one group, the
“indifferent”, who are unwilling to sort. Therefore, limited in-depth knowledge exists about nonsorters
in Copenhagen. This study is based on a social-environmental problem-solving perspective,
and its findings support a solution-oriented way forward.

Interviews with 11 non-sorting households provided first-hand insight into what influences the
citizens. Findings across respondents showed that practical, societal and rational arguments, as well
as numerous distinctive factors, influenced their non-sorting practices. However, what influence
respondents not to sort are neither simple within individual households nor across. From this,
examining individual households’ most influential factors, findings showed factors relating to
practical arguments are most numerous, but suggest that factors related to societal and rational
arguments are highly influential when present, despite small in numbers. Further, five of the 11
households had previously sorted biowaste, but stopped, which supports studies suggesting that a
strict distinction of sorters and non-sorters is an erroneous dichotomy. Moreover, questions of scale
and fear of freeriding, challenges the positive biowaste-environment correlation found, which have
altruistic potential.

The findings suggest that seeing non-sorters homogenously gives an incomplete understanding, and
considering heterogeneity unravelled non-sorters who care, know and are willing to sort biowaste.
Thus interventions in line with the findings could push for more sorting, hence a list of
recommendations was created. Knowledge accumulated could benefit policy-makers and
stakeholders working within the field municipal waste management and resource recovery in
Copenhagen and similar cities.},
  author       = {Touveneau Petersen, Stephanie},
  keyword      = {biowaste,recycling,waste hierarchy,municipal waste management,urban resource management,phosphorous recovery},
  language     = {eng},
  note         = {Student Paper},
  series       = {Master Thesis Series in Environmental Studies and Sustainability Science},
  title        = {Biowaste Non-Sorters : who cares. Examining arguments and factors from citizens not sorting biowaste in Copenhagen and recommendations for a way forward},
  year         = {2018},
}