Plastics and Behavior Change: Use Theme

This page provides case studies, academic research and thought pieces related to plastic use and behavior change.

“Use” is the middle step of the plastic pollution life-cycle. This can include many things, perhaps most importantly the decision to use, or not use, plastic. The following thought pieces, theories, and case studies share examples of how behavioral science can understand why people depend on plastic in the first place, and encourage them to use (or not use) plastics thoughtfully and intentionally. At the bottom of the page, you’ll see the resources and toolboxes from the home page that may help you in building your own initiatives.

Thought pieces and theory:

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Case studies:

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Keep in mind that this webpage is a living one – we will continue adding relevant content as the world of behavioral science grows! If you have any thought pieces or research surrounding behavioral science and the following topics, don’t hesitate to reach out:

Consumer education & awareness campaigns, policy and regulation, subsidies for alternative plastics/packaging, deposit-return systems, plastic-free initiatives, community engagement, international agreements and/or waste management infrastructure.

Behavioral Science and Plastic Toolkit Resources

Click on each button to reveal a description of each tool, as well as helpful links and information.

  • This is Rare’s approach to designing behavioral solutions for conservation and environmental challenges, inspired by design thinking and behavior change principles. This approach uses eight different steps and is meant to be an iterative process. Many BCD resources are available on the Center for Behavior & the Environment’s website,, though those interested in an in-depth understanding can sign up for a course on

  • Want to evaluate your behavior change program with a behavior change lens? Use this tool to reflect on how your program is applying principles and practices of Behavior-Centered Design.

  • The PREVENT Waste Alliance prioritizes innovative methods to creating a sustainable circular economy, especially in the world of plastics. Applying for and attaining a membership on the PREVENT site will grant you access to their HUB, which provides networking opportunities and resources on cross-cutting topics like behavior change.

  • Break Free From Plastic focuses specifically on ways to eradicate plastic pollution by analyzing opportunities to do so along the plastic supply chain. From brand audits to ideas for plastic reduction on school campuses, and from social media campaign ideas to a membership platform with many resources, this site provides a plethora of inspiration for ways behavior change can be inspired worldwide.

  • This resource from Delterra, called Plastics IQ, is “a digital tool that is changing the way companies understand their plastic footprint, make better packaging decisions, and transition towards a circular economy.” Using interactive platforms, users can explore both issues and solutions, including behavioral interventions.

  • US Plastic Pact provides resources for “businesses, not-for-profit organizations, government agencies, and research institutions” who work with post-consumer recycled content (PCR). They provide a toolkit that encourages the more use of PCR and less use of virgin plastic and is helpful for those working with plastic production. The toolkit’s focus on consumer participation inherently relates to behavior change, both at an institutional level and a individual level.

  • The 5 Minute Beach Cleanup initiative began on social media in Costa Rica and has since grown into a powerhouse organization with the goal to encourage anybody, anywhere to help clean trash. Their work is people- and organization-focused, and their site provides a variety of ways that behavior-focused campaigns can lead to wide-spread success, including in the tourism industry, in education, and for sustainable economies.

  • If you know of another resource that provides information on plastic production, use, and/or disposal AND behavior change, email our Center for Behavior and the Environment (BE.Center) team at