A pilot assessment of a 'plastic free community' initiative, respective community actions and residents' behavior

MacDonald, Anna and Allen, Deonie and João, Elsa (2021) A pilot assessment of a 'plastic free community' initiative, respective community actions and residents' behavior. Microplastic, 1 (1). pp. 47-66. ISSN 2673-8929 (https://doi.org/10.3390/microplastics1010004)

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The problems of plastic pollution are increasing and have been linked to sustainability efforts. Some communities have tried to tackle this issue by implementing 'plastic free' initiatives, such as the 'Plastic Free Community'. Community initiatives foster change and encourage improved environmental outcomes; however, it is unclear if ‘plastic free’ initiatives have the capacity to 'snowball' into further sustainable behaviors or if they are a 'distraction' from more pressing environmental issues. This study presents the behavioral changes, snowball and distraction effects from the first Scottish mainland 'plastic free community' initiative. The pilot study of 'Plastic Free Anstruther' (Scotland) identifies self-transcending values and locus of control as important drivers for change, but adoption of single-use plastic alternatives and a 'single use' mindset resulted in a limited 'snowball' effect. Future 'Plastic Free Community' initiatives should focus on encouraging more circular approaches and individual behavior change to reduce waste and improve environmental outcomes. While the initiative resulted in greater awareness of wider environmental issues, additional incentives for individual and business pro-environmental behavior could further improve economic, social and environmental sustainability.