Abstract of PhD Thesis

An examination of public attitudes and behaviour towards waste management: The case of Galway

Frances Fahy, Trinity College Dublin (2006)

In recent years waste and general environmental issues have become an area of prime concern for national governments, policymakers and local communities. However, research on waste management has largely ignored the role of individual attitudes and actions, preferring to concentrate on technical or scientific solutions to waste management problems. Many of the waste management policies adopted in Ireland focus on the provision of information about waste and the environment in general with the assumption that the public will absorb this information and change their behaviour accordingly. However, this thesis proposes that waste management behaviour is affected by more than just information and that a gap (commonly referred to as the value-action gap) exists between individuals’ attitudes and actions towards waste.

Using Galway as a case study and utilising innovative research methods, this research furthers previous studies conducted in Ireland and contributes to wider literature by establishing the existence of the value-action gap in waste management in Galway and providing an improved understanding of the factors which influence attitudes and behaviour towards waste management generally. Specifically, the research produced an original data set with base-line quantitative information on both public understanding of waste management issues and public attitudes and behaviour towards waste management. In addition, the research enabled the public to identify the variables that shape their waste management attitudes and behaviour and identify the barriers to, and opportunities for, achieving more sustainable waste management.