Collective Action and Responses to Poor?Quality Recycling in St. Johns

Mark Williams


This paper discusses the lack of proper recycling programs in St John’s, NL and explains the relevance of collective action and rational choice theories in addressing the matter. The city has done a poor job of implementing proper recycling programs, and is one of only two provincial capitals that does not offer a government-funded curb?side recycling program. While some private recycling programs do exist in the city, they are inefficient and thus viewed by the populace as a waste of time. As most people believe that their individual waste contributions will not make much difference to the overall state of the environment, waste continues to accumulate and negatively impact the environment, as well as the image and state of the city. Collective action theory, as discussed by Ostrom, offers several possible solutions, such as privatization of territory or discussion amongst the populace. Unfortunately, such solutions are impractical for this particular problem. The government must step in and impose a recycling “Leviathan” by implementing mandatory recycling and forcing citizens to recycle or be left with their own refuse. Only by making recycling a self-interested priority for the populace will St John’s be able to improve its waste management practices.

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