Reducing by 50% the quantity of waste put in the dump by 2025! Is that even possible? This is anyway the stated goal of the ecological transition law for green growth in Europe.
A plurality of actors has been mobilized and many actions are considered to achieve that goal. For instance, the French Ministry of ecological and sustainable transition makes several tools available online on the website “ça suffit le gâchis” (enough with waste), such as helpful tips and testimonies toward individuals, businesses and communities to encourage the fight against waste.
Fighting against the waste of resources is everyone’s business!
The European week for waste reduction has been created to heighten awareness on waste prevention. Retail companies as well have grasped an understanding of the stakes of this fight. For instance, Carrefour, Leclerc or even Lidl communicate on their initiatives aiming at reducing packaging, their power consumption, their pollutant emissions, the education of their customers, etc. Another example is the recent development of smartphone apps, connected objects, serious games, or the introduction of shared fridges in the streets, the offer for cooking or gardening classes… and the list could go on!
Waste does not only relate to food
Though these initiatives, worthy as they may be, participate in the fight against waste, they are mostly restricted to food. However, waste affects every object. What do we know about consumers’ perception of object waste? In which situation do they perceive they engage in wasting? Can we qualify them? This is the issue of Valérie Guillard and Eva Delacroix’s research, awarded with best communication prize at the AFM congress of 2018 in Strasbourg, France.
Identifying situations where consumers perceive waste
To answer these questions, the researchers conducted two distinct studies : first, a qualitative analysis with two series of interviews (266 short face-to-face interviews followed by 20 in-depths interviews with at-home observations), and second, an experiment during which 466 persons where exposed to one of five scenarios describing different situations of waste.
- Wasting is perceived through every phase of consumption
Consumers have the feeling of wasting when they buy objects, when they use them, when they stock them and when they dispose of them. Thus, wasting results in buying useless objects, in excessive amount, impulsively, i.e. buying objects that do not correspond to a genuine purpose, or of poor quality, etc. In the end, these objects are poorly or hardly used and eventually stored (by choice or by neglect). Storing objects that could be donated then induces a feeling of waste, though inferior to disposing of objects that could still be of use.
- Throwing away and replacing are the situations that cause the strongest feeling of waste
The epitome of waste in the fact of replacing or throwing away an object that is still working (and could be repaired instead). Consumers also mention situations where they do not get a choice: a defect in an object (pieces of clothing for example) or in case of planned obsolescence.
Raising awareness throughout the consumption process of objects
Waste affects a great number of objects, situations and every phase of the consumption process. However, consumers often have a fragmented awareness of it. It is important that public authorities, through awareness campaigns, rely on the variability of identified situations to enlarge the spectrum of consumers’ representations.
So, how do we prevent waste? By being aware of the usefulness of an object when we buy, use, store and dispose of it. This is full time job!
Valérie Guillard et Eva Delacroix (2018), Dans quelle mesure un consommateur perçoit-il qu’il gaspille des objets ? Une approche situationnelle, Best communication prize, 34th Internationl Congress of the French Marketing Association (AFM), Strasbourg.
Blog post adapted from Agnes Helme-Guizon’s