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Choose to reuse! The effect of reminders on recycling behavior
Last registered on March 17, 2018
View Trial History
Choose to reuse! The effect of reminders on recycling behavior
Initial registration date
October 22, 2017
March 17, 2018 12:22 PM EDT
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Other Primary Investigator(s)
Additional Trial Information
Environment & Energy
Reminders can be effective, low-cost behavioral interventions for encouraging individuals to take action. In a controlled field experiment, we analyze the effects of different reminders on individual’s recycling behavior (i.e. returning plastic bags). We cooperate with a food-boxes provider that offers clients weekly compilations of seasonal, biological products. Several vegetables within the food-boxes are delivered in plastic bags. While customers have the possibility and are encouraged to return the plastic bags for reuse ("recycle"), there is currently a low return rate of plastic bags. As behavioral interventions, we investigate the impact of close-to-the-action reminders and of conventional reminders on recycling behavior, relative to a control treatment where no reminders are present. A close-to-the-action reminder is understood and designed as a reminder which catches people’s attention in the situation and at the time of taking action. In our case, this is the moment of deciding whether to discard or return a plastic bag for reuse.
Essl, Andrea, Martin Staehle and Angela Steffen. 2018. "Choose to reuse! The effect of reminders on recycling behavior." AEA RCT Registry. March 17.
Essl, Andrea et al. 2018. "Choose to reuse! The effect of reminders on recycling behavior." AEA RCT Registry. March 17.
Sponsors & Partners
As behavioral interventions, we investigate the impact of close-to-the-action reminders and of conventional reminders on recycling behavior, relative to a control treatment where no reminders are present. We aim to contribute by, first, identifying a reminder effect in the domain of sustainability and, second, by analyzing how to use reminders for improving recycling behavior in a cost-efficient and effective way.
Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date
Primary Outcomes (end points)
The primary outcomes are 1) the absolute and relative number of plastic bags returned per client and week (relative to the number of plastic bags distributed), 2) the absolute and relative number of plastic bags with a sticker returned per client and week, 3) the absolute and relative number of plastic bags without a sticker returned per client and week, 4) the difference in the relative number of plastic bags returned during and before the intervention period (for plastic bags with and without stickers) 5) the absolute and relative number of plastic bags returned after the intervention (compared to the intervention and pre-intervention period as well as over time)
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
Clients are assigned (stratified by depots and food-box type) to one of the following treatments:
Control treatment: no reminder
Experimental treatment 1: conventional reminder
Experimental treatment 2: close-to-the-action reminder
Experimental Design Details
Our experiment consists of two experimental treatments and one control treatment. In the conventional reminder treatment, a flyer is enclosed in a loose form to the food-box. In the close-to-the-action reminder treatment, we use a sticker as a reminder that is directly stuck to one of the plastic bags in the food-box. By a close-to-the-action reminder we mean a reminder which catches people’s attention in the situation and at the time of taking action. In our case, this is the moment of deciding between returning or discarding the plastic bags. In the control treatment, there is no reminder present. Over a 5-week intervention period, we attach either a sticker, a flyer, or no reminder (control) to the weekly compilations of seasonal, biological products (food-boxes) which are delivered by our cooperation partner on a weekly basis. The reminder message is exactly the same in both experimental treatments, saying: "Please return the plastic bags. They can be reused." The timing of the experiment is as follow: In the pre-intervention period (2 weeks) we measure the baseline returning behavior. In the intervention period (5 weeks), clients in the experimental treatments receive weekly reminders and in the post-intervention period (4 weeks) we collect data on returning behavior for analyzing the long-term effects of the reminders. Our main variable of interest is the relative number of plastic bags returned per client per week (relative to the total number of plastic bags distributed). At the delivery day we measure how many plastic bags every client receives and each week we count the number of plastic bags returned per client. To collect this individual measure of returning behavior over time, we label every single plastic bag with a client and week identification number just before the food-boxes are distributed. As clients might not return their food-box and the plastic bags every week, but gather them over some time and then bring them back collectively, we also control for the date of return.
Randomization was done in office by a computer running a Stata code with random number generation. We sorted clients into stratas based on the food-box type (vegan, vegetarian, meat) and depots (sites where clients can pick-up their weekly food-box, 11 depots in total).
Clients of the food-box provider
Was the treatment clustered?
Sample size: planned number of clusters
336 clients (clients of the food-box provider may drop off from sample during intervention period)
Sample size: planned number of observations
336 clients (independent observations) over a total of 11-week time period (2 weeks pre-intervention, 5 weeks intervention and 4 weeks post-intervention)
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
112 clients control treatment, 112 clients conventional reminder, and 112 close-to-the-action reminder
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
Based on incomplete data about current recycling behavior of our study subjects, the minimum detectable effect is 15 percentage points. This effect is calculated to have a power of 80% and a p-value of 0.05 based on the average treatment effects from Calzolari, G., & Nardotto, M. (2016). Effective Reminders. Management Science and Altmann, S. and Traxler, T. (2014). Nuges at the dentist. European Economic Review, 72: 19-38.
Supporting Documents and Materials
INSTITUTIONAL REVIEW BOARDS (IRBs)
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number
Post Trial Information
Is the intervention completed?
Is data collection complete?
Is public data available?
Reports, Papers & Other Materials
REPORTS & OTHER MATERIALS