Rethink, Reset, Recycle in Florida: Smart Recycling to increase Local Recycling Rates and Reduce Contamination

"How effective are counties in communicating recycling messages to their citizens and are they effective?" 

This research will identify the communication tools applied by Florida local governments to transmit recycling messages to their residents and the changes in form and content of these communications to citizens. These assessments of recycling communication can then be linked to the recycling behavior of the residents of the county. This will provide much stronger evidence to assess what messages and what types of information are effective in influencing change in citizen’s involvement in their county’s recycling programs.

Recent research supported by the Hinkley Center takes the initial steps to fill the lacuna in our understanding of the link between county communications and behavior. A team of researchers at the University of Florida led by Janice Krieger evaluated the core text and visual components of recycling messages in Florida and identified characteristics of high- and low-recyclers through focus groups to best practice recommendations for recycling communication. This work is being extended through interviews with officials in low- and high-recycling performance counties. A team of researchers at Florida State University led by Richard Feiock and Namhoon Ki is replicating the evaluations of the core text and visual components of recycling messages and conducting a survey of local governments on the process of communication and the messages and media relied on. This will be linked then to measures of recycling and contamination rates.

The proposed research builds upon, integrates and extends this work and makes a significant new contribution by examining the effectiveness of counties’ recycling communication to their citizens and its effectiveness in influencing specific behaviors.

 

Rethink, Reset, Recycle in Florida

This study aims to increase the Florida statewide recycling rate by investigating the statewide recycling education campaign, “Rethink, Reset, Recycle”, which was initiated in November 2017 on Florida Recycles Day. The campaign encompasses a wide range of messaging resources intended to increase of public participation in curbside recycling and reduce contamination rates. Working closely with Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) we will apply social science and policy theory and models to investigate the factors influencing citizen behavior relating to recycling and assess the educational messaging in order to model changes in county contamination and recycling rates in Florida. 

 

We will track the longitudinal changes of curbside recycling rates of 67 counties in Florida before and after the dates those counties first used such resources for the campaign. Working with DEP and material recovery facilities, we will also track changes in contamination rates for a sample of counties. Furthermore, we will control for county characteristics by compiling an extensive longitudinal database of county characteristics. Messaging policy will be captured in two ways.  First, we will apply textual analysis to disseminated materials will extract messages content, patterns and clusters that can be added to the explanatory models we will estimate. Second, we will survey county recycling coordinators regarding the message content, media, and timing of their efforts.  This will also allow us to compare managers perception of the most effective messages with the results. Evidence from our rigorous methodological analyses will produce specific policy advice to reduce municipal solid waste and/or to increase recycling rates.

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