Decisions on recycling or waste: How packaging functions affect the fate of used packaging in selected Swedish households

Helén Williams*, Fredrik Wikström, Katarina Wetter-Edman, Per Kristensson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)


The intention of this paper is to learn more about why consumers choose whether or not to recycle, with special attention given to the functions of the packaging itself, in order to provide suggestions for improvements in packaging design, recycling systems and the environmental assessment of different packaging designs. The study focussed on ten households in Sweden that where motivated to participate in the study in order to gain an understanding of the complex matter of this decision-making process. The intention of implementing an interview-based qualitative study was to gain rich data and to reach beyond the respondents' immediate verbal responses. The respondents were interviewed with open-ended questions, which were supported with pictures of packaging; additionally, their waste bins were examined. This explorative study suggests a set of obstacles that cause consumers to dispose of packaging relating to the functions of packaging. The different obstacles that determine whether or not packaging is recycled were organised according to three different themes: the attitude towards cleanliness, the effort required to clean and sort and uncertainties about the best environmental alternative. The different functions of packaging do in fact influence all of the identified themes and; therefore, influence the decisions consumers make with regards to the recycling of specific packaging. The identified packaging functions were easy to separate different materials, easy to separate different parts, easy to clean, easy to empty, easy to reseal, easy to compress and communication regarding recycling. Consumer behaviour with regards to specific packaging functions and recycling should be further investigated. It should also be considered for inclusion in design processes, to increase the chance of materials being recycled, and in food-packaging life-cycle assessments, to provide results that align more closely with reality.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4794
Peer-reviewed scientific journalSustainability (Switzerland)
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 15.12.2018
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article - refereed


  • Attitudes
  • Behaviour
  • Content properties
  • Environmental impact
  • Packaging functions
  • Packaging waste
  • 512 Business and Management


Dive into the research topics of 'Decisions on recycling or waste: How packaging functions affect the fate of used packaging in selected Swedish households'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this