Collecting recyclables, Bangkok © Diane Archer / SEI

Collecting recyclables, Bangkok. Photo: Diane Archer / SEI

This study underscored the importance of waste as a resource that supports the livelihoods of many urban stakeholders in Bangkok. Examining drivers of household behaviour provides important insights into how to promote more sustainable behaviour. However, possibilities for individual behaviour change are constrained by factors including societal norms, lack of easy opportunities and lack of incentives. Policymakers have a leading role to play in piloting more efficient and circular waste structures, regulating industry and creating an enabling environment for sustainable behaviour, while ensuring that no one is left behind.

Key findings

  • Looking at two Bangkok neighbourhoods, the authors found major gaps in household waste separation, recycling and reuse practices with approximately 75% of all types of household waste thrown out as trash.
  • Organic waste is the most significant waste type, making up 83% of total waste generated and 90% of total waste thrown out as trash. Households face difficulties in composting due to lack of knowledge, appropriate storage facilities and financial incentive.
  • A value-action gap can be observed between attitudes and practices with 72% of households saying that they separate waste “every time” or “mostly”, and 92% agreeing with the statement that “household waste sorting should be done by everyone”. This does not correlate to the large amount of waste in the sample that is thrown away as trash.
  • The most important motivating factors of household behaviour were found to be economic motivation, with many households earning supplementary income from selling waste to informal collectors, and the feeling of collective action when various stakeholders work together towards common goals.