Effects of the Environmental Attitude and Responsibility on Household Waste Separation: Evidence from Iranian Married Women

Siroos Ahmadi*
Department of Sociology, Faculty of Human Science, Yasouj University, Yasouj, Iran

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© 2018 Siroos Ahmadi.

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/legalcode). This license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Department of Sociology, Faculty of Human Science, Yasouj University, Siroos Ahmadi, Yasouj, Iran; Tel: +987433242151; E-mail: sahmadi@yu.ac.ir



Women can play an important role in relieving problems in every society but this capacity has been neglected especially in developing countries. Given the intensification of the waste issue in Iran, this research aimed to investigate the effect of environmental attitude and responsibility of married women on household waste separation as a significant strategy to alleviating waste problem.


This cross-sectional survey was conducted on 562 married women in two Iranian provinces; Kohgiluye and Boyerahmad, and Fars.


Research findings using structural equation model suggested that; the environmental attitude and responsibility positively affect on HWS (R2=.66). Furthermore, HWS was significantly different in terms of demographic variables of education, age, job, city of residence, years of marriage, and number of children.


The study concluded that; by improving the married women’s environmental attitude, responsibility, education level, and employment chances, HWS as an urgent need of the country will be significantly developed.

Keywords: Household waste separation, Environmental attitude, Responsibility, Iranian married women, Urbanization, Education.


Due to growth in population, urbanization and change in ways of life in Iran, generation of municipal solid waste, as garbage that comes mainly from homes [1], has reached 20 million tons [2] per year; 600g per day for everyone. Continuing this situation damages the country from various dimensions. A principal strategy to deal with the rapid waste generation problem is recycling particularly through household waste separation. Given that, married women are traditionally home managers who usually receive the discarded materials by other members of the household [3] and are generally more engagement in ordinary home activities, they could play an important role in this context. Married women by doing HWS are able to make possible usage of more household waste before destroying and improve better quality of the recycled materials [4]. Many studies have shown that women are commonly more apt to carry out pro-environmental behaviors than men [5]. Though the waste separation at source’s plan has been carrying out since 2004 in Iran [6] and 40% of the generated waste by homes is easily recyclable dry waste such as paper, plastic, glass, metal, textile, wood, etc. [7, 8]. the rate of HWS is a small amount [2, 6-11].This reality shows that the married women are not very much inclined to do HWS. The question is why?

As a behavior, HWS is influenced by a range of factors such as, knowledge of how to separate [12], trust [13], associated facilities [14], socioeconomic status [15], number of family members [16, 17], membership in environmental organizations [18], age [19], economical incentives [20], social influence [21], education [22], attitude toward recycling [23, 24], and use of media [25].

Many environmental studies have shown that environmental attitude, as a set of knowledge and positive emotions to the environment [26, 27] can be a key factor to explain environmental behaviors [28] like HWS. According to Allport [29], attitude dynamically affects on how people react to objects, persons and situations. Fishbein and Ajzen [30] in the Reasoned Action Theory believe; intention as an element that comes before any behavior is determined by attitudes and subjective norms. Based on this theory, there is a close relationship between attitude and behavior. Attitude consists of three components; cognitive, emotional and behavioral. The mechanism of influencing attitude on behavior is that everybody has some knowledge of a subject. If this cognitive part is backed up by emotional component, the behavioral part is shaped and one behaves in agreement with that subject, if not, one shows no behavior agreeing with that subject [31].

Some studies have examined the relationship between environmental attitude and HWS. They are different not only in measuring the HWS, but also in their findings. Some researchers have shown a significant relationship between the two variables [19, 32, 33] and some have revealed no significant association between them [34, 35].

Responsibility is another major variable that might be influencing HWS. Responsibility is generally regarded as a personal capacity or competence [36]. Responsibility is an internal obligation and commitment to do good all activities that a person has been undertaken [37] or expectations society has from him/her [38]. Responsibility is an inherent potential living in each person, which becomes evident as the self begins to recognize the needs of others [39]. Responsibility is usually determined by some basic signs; taking into account the consequences of behavior looking at self and others [40], caring task, responsiveness, reliability [41] and concerns with the well-being of self and others [42]. Responsibility as a multidimensional construct [43] can be divided into two types of personal and collective, in a general grouping [44]. While one feels commitment toward self in the personal responsibility, the collective one connects an individual toward a group or community that he/she is a member. Given that, the responsibility causes internal commitment aimed to concerns about the well-being of self and others, it can promote appropriate behaviors that finally profit both, individual and society such as HWS.

There are a few studies that have shown responsibility impacts positively on prosocial behaviors such as altruism [45-48] or energy saving [49-51]. Some researchers have suggested that there is a significant relationship between responsibility and undertaking environmental behaviors [52, 53]. Yuan et al. [54] clearly showed a negative significant relationship between responsibility denial and household kitchen waste separation and Nguyen et al. [13] suggested that, awareness of responsibility significantly impact on waste separation intention.

Logically, lack of HWS would damage at last to the environment, society and all members through destroying a main portion of recyclable material [4], allocating more land for landfill or dump [32], increasing the cost of collection and transportation waste [4], growing viruses, bacteria, parasites and fungi [55], generating hazardous gases in incineration [56, 57], and long-term absorption of some waste, for instance, plastic, glass and metal by nature. As a result, it is expected that, the more environmental attitude and responsibility the married women have, the more household waste separation they do. Therefore, the research question of the present study is that; do environmental attitude and responsibility affect on HWS among Iranian married women?


This cross-sectional survey was conducted in two Iranian provinces; Kohgiluyeh-Boyerahmad in southwestern Iran and Fars in southern Iran that generate the maximum rate of municipal solid waste in Iran with an average of 700g per person per day [58]. The main difference is that, while, the waste separation at source’s plan is carried out in Shiraz the capital city of Fars province, it is not performed in Yasouj the capital city of the other one. The population of the study consisted of 342851 married women; 315725 in Shiraz and 27126 in Yasouj [59]. To determine the sample size, Cochran’s [60] sampling formula was used. Regarding the estimated proportion of existence of HWS in the population (p=0.5), the estimated proportion of lack of HWS (q=0.5), the value for the selected alpha level (t=1.96), acceptable margin of error (d=0.05), and the total population (N=342851), the sample size was achieved 562 that were selected through multistage random sampling method in 10 urban districts out of 11 in Shiraz, and 2 urban districts out of 2 in Yasouj. The needed data were gathered during one month; Jan 10, 2017 to Feb 12, 2017.

Research instrument to assess the HWS was a researcher-made questionnaire developed according to the preliminary study on the most common consumable items by Iranian households in ordinary life. The questionnaire consisted of four components; plastic (10 items), paper (10 items), glass (7 items), and metal (6 items), that have been shown in Table 1. The questionnaire included 33 dichotomous (yes, no) question asking respondents that items they separate from wet waste when discarded in a recent month. Therefore, the score range varied from zero to 33. The questionnaire was content-validated through looking for the views of a panel of experts. To assess the reliability, Kuder-Richardson coefficient was used that its value for the paper, metal, glass, plastic and the whole questionnaire were .68, .72, .65, .70 and .74, respectively.

Table 1. Demographic characteristics of the respondents.
- Categories F %
City Yasouj 232 41.9
Shiraz 330 58.1
Education Pre-diploma 74 13.3
Diploma 161 28.6
B.A or B.S 236 42.0
M.A or M.S 82 14.6
PhD 9 1.6
Job status Employed 217 38.6
Homemaker 345 61.4
Age-group 18-29 169 30.1
30-39 243 43.2
40-49 111 19.8
50+ 39 6.9
No. years of marriage 0-10 310 55.2
- 11-20 136 24.2
- 21-30 77 13.7
- 31-40 27 4.8
- 41-50 12 2.1
No. children 0 104 18.5
- 1 141 25.1
- 2 121 21.5
- 3 83 14.8
- 4 52 9.2
- 5 18 3.2
- 6 23 4.1
- 7 13 2.3
- 8 5 .9
- 9 1 .2
- 10 1 .2

The second instrument was New Ecological Paradigm (NEP) developed by Dunlap et al. [61]. The NEP includes 15 items that have been designed in terms of a five-point likert scale so that the range is from 15 to 75. This scale has a five-factor structure; anti-exemptionalism, anti-anthropocentrism, limits of growth, balance of nature, eco-crisis. Some of the NEP question are as follows; We are approaching the limit of the number of people the Earth can support, Humans are seriously abusing the environment; Plants and animals have as much right as humans to exist; Humans were meant to rule over the rest of nature; The balance of nature is very delicate and easily upset. The tool was applied by Nooripour and Ahmadvand [62] in Iran and its psychometric properties was calculated. The Cronbach's alpha coefficient was used to assess the reliability in this study that the results were .81, .84, .76, .67, .84 and .86 for anti-exemptionalism, anti-anthropocentrism, limits of growth, balance of nature, eco-crisis, and the whole scale, respectively.

The third research instrument was Gough’s [63] responsibility scale that was designed as a part of California Psychological Inventory. This scale consists of 42 items and has a one-factor structure. Measurement level is a dichotomous one (yes=1, no=0) and the range is from 0 to 42. Some of the responsibility scale taken from CPI is as follows; when I work on a committee I like to take charge of thing, sometimes I rather enjoy going against the rules and doing things I’m not supposed to, I am embarrassed with people I don’t know well. This tool was applied by Saadati Shamir et al. [64] in Iran and its psychometric property was measured. For evaluating the reliability, Kuder-Richardson coefficient was employed in this study that the value was 0.94.

To describe the data, descriptive statistics including frequency, percentage, mean and standard deviation were used, and to examine the relationships among variables, Structural Equation Modeling (SEM) using LISREL, One-Way ANOVA, Independent t test, and Pearson Correlation were applied (Fig. 1).

Fig. (1). Conceptual framework.


The descriptive findings of the study are presented in Tables 1, 2, 3 and 4. According to the Table 1, most respondents lived in Shiraz, had a B.A or B.S degree, were homemakers, ranged in age from 30-39, got married from 0-10 years, and had 1 child.

Table 2 shows the HWS among the married women that, yogurt container, book and manual, jar of jam, and soda can, had the most separation by the respondents in categories of plastic, paper, glass and metal, respectively.

Table 2. Descriptive statistics of HWS among the married women.
- - Yes No
F % F %
Plastic     Disposable container 400 71.2 162 28.8
    Yogurt container 428 76.2 134 23.8
    Cheese container 350 62.3 212 37.7
    Mineral water bottle 408 72.6 158 27.4
    Oil bottle 363 64.6 199 35.4
    Detergent bottle 370 65.8 192 34.2
    Shampoo bottle 340 60.5 222 39.5
    Handle plastic 278 49.5 284 50.5
    Gloves 257 45.7 305 54.3
    Sauces container 371 66.0 191 34.0
Paper     Tissue packet 333 59.3 229 40.7
    Detergent packet 312 55.5 250 44.5
    Juice packet 259 46.1 303 53.9
    Toothpaste pocket 201 35.8 361 64.2
    Biscuit package 195 34.7 367 65.3
    Soap packet 187 33.3 375 66.7
    Cream pocket 235 41.8 327 58.2
    A4 paper 345 61.4 217 38.6
Newspapers and magazines 405 72.1 157 27.9
Books and manuals 457 81.3 105 18.7
Glass     Jar of jam 474 84.3 88 15.7
    Glass of sauce 473 84.2 89 15.8
    Soda bottle 419 74.6 143 25.4
    Syrup bottle 393 69.9 168 29.9
    Perfume bottle 338 60.1 224 39.9
Honey glass 398 70.8 164 29.2
Lemon juice bottle 402 71.5 160 28.5
Metal     Cans 340 60.5 222 39.5
    Paste can 342 60.9 220 39.1
    Soda can 346 61.6 216 38.4
    Cans of insecticide 321 57.1 241 42.9
Aluminum coat 272 48.4 290 51.6
Battery 275 48.9 287 51.1

Based on the Table 3, the means for HWS, environmental attitude, and responsibility were 20.03, 52.8 and 26.05, respectively.

Table 3. Summary statistics for HWS, environmental attitude, and responsibility.
- Min Max Mean Std.D
Household waste separation 0 33 20.03 8.1
Plastic 0 10 6.3 2.9
Paper 0 10 5.2 3.1
Glass 0 7 5.1 2.2
Metal 0 6 3.4 1.2
Environmental attitude
Balance of nature
Table 4. N-way of Analysis of variance on effect of demographic variables on HWS.
- Type III Sum of Squares df Mean Square F P value
Corrected Model 12850.6a 22 584.1 13.1 P< .001
Intercept 15481.5 1 15481.5 348.2 P< .001
Education 2333.3 4 583.3 13.1 P< .001
Age-group 227.8 3 75.9 1.7 NS
City of residence 1307.7 1 1307.7 29.4 P< .001
Job situation 49.1 1 49.1 1.1 NS
Years of marriage 154.7 4 38.7 .87 NS
No. children 367.8 9 40.8 .92 NS
Error 23922.4 538 44.5 - -
Total 262134 561 - - -
Corrected total 36772.9 560 - - -
.R Square=.349 (Adjusted R Square=.323)

To explain HWS as the dependent variable based on environmental attitudes and responsibility as the independent variables, SEM was performed that the results are shown in Fig. (2). In this model, HWS was defined by four observed variables of plastic, paper, glass, and metal. Environmental attitude was described by five observed variables of anti-exemptionalism, anti-anthropocentrism, limits of growth, balance of nature, and eco-crisis. And the responsibility was explained by only one observed variable of responsibility. Root Mean Square Error of Approximation (RMSEA=0.075) showed that, the SEM has a desirable goodness of fit. Coefficients of GFI (0.96) and AGIF (0.92) also supported the SEM goodness of fit. Causal coefficient of environmental attitude on HWS is (0.59) and on responsibility is (0.49). In addition, the causal coefficient of responsibility on HWS is (0.62). The error variance for HWS is (0.34) and for responsibility is (0.76) that mean the environmental attitude and responsibility are able to explain 0.66 of HWS variance, and 0.24 of the responsibility variance is explained by the environment attitude.

Fig. (2). The estimated Structural Equations Model (SEM).

Table 4 presents statistical analyses between demographic variables including education, age group, city of residence, job situation, number of years of marriage, and number of children with HWS using n-way analysis of variance. Based on the results, education, and city of residence affect significantly on HWS so that the married women with PhD educational level carried out HWS more than other categories, and those who live in Shiraz performed HWS more than their counterparts in Yasouj. Other demographic variables didn’t have a significant effect on HWS. The results show that, the significant variables of education and city of residence were able to explain .323 of variance of HWS.


Because of population growth and rapid urbanization, generation of municipal solid waste is quickly increasing and its management is becoming a serious problem in Iran that can damage to the country from various aspects. Considering much of the MSW comes from homes, married women as home managers by household waste separation can effectively assist to improvement of the MSW management but they don’t pay much attention to this issue. As long as women do not participate actively in the HWS, waste management will remain a serious challenge in the country.

The descriptive findings of the study showed two things; first, the rate of HWS is not well enough among the married women and their mean score is 20.03 in range of zero to 33. This means that lots of dry recyclable waste are mixed with wet waste and become useless. Second, the married women are, among the four categories of items, more apt to separate glass. This may be because of more usability of glass for reusing at house compared to other categories and the Iranian married women can use them for various purposes especially in the kitchen.

The inferential research part also suggested three findings. First, the environmental attitude positively affects on HWS. This research finding is consistent with the results of Zhang et al. [32], Meneses & Palacio [19], and Chan [33], showing environmental attitude significantly and positively impacts on HWS, and is not in agreement with the results of Oskamp et al. [34] and Vining & Ebreo [35] representing no significant relationship between the environmental attitude and HWS. This incompatibility might be due to the difference of samples. While, those studies focused on a variety of people, this research has just concentrated on the married women. Significant effect of the environmental attitude on HWS seems logical because the environmental attitude as a set of knowledge and positive feelings to the environment raises one’s own sensitivity to the environment, self, and society. Regarding lack of HWS damages severely to the environment and society as well, the more positive the environmental attitude people have, the more HWS they do. Second, responsibility influences positively and significantly on HWS that is in concurrence with the results of Yuan et al. [54], and Nguyen et al. [13] revealing responsibility increases HWS. Significant effect of responsibility on HWS looks like reasonable since the responsibility as an intrinsic potential living in person who concerns with the well-being of self and others, increases one’s own compassion to the environment, self and society. Given that lack of HWS harms cruelly to the environment, self, and society, those who have more responsibility are more probably to carry out appropriate ecological behaviors like HWS to benefit the environment, self and the society. Third, education, and city of residence affect significantly on HWS. This research finding seems rational because women with higher level of education are more informed and concerned about the damage caused by lack of HWS on the environment, self, and society compared with lower educational levels. Living in larger city, as well, leads to more cognizances of the risky results of not HWS.


Women, because of more prone to carry out the appropriate behaviors toward the environment and being traditionally home managers, can simply contribute to alleviate the growing MSW generation as an acute problem in Iran by doing HWS. The present study focusing on married women showed that, 1) the rate of HWS is not still satisfactory among married women and a plenty of recyclable waste is destroyed. 2) The environmental attitude increases the HWS. 3) Responsibility raises HWS. 4) Married women with higher educational level, and living in larger city are more prone to carry out HWS. Women are half of population in every society and have a tremendous capacity for lessening the problems and increasing the development but using their capacity requires removing the obstacles preventing them to do the appropriate behaviors. In the light of the present study findings, the following suggestions would be practical especially in developing countries to increase HWS as an important way to decrease the harmful effects of increasing MSW; 1) Improving and promoting the environmental attitude of married women’s. 2) Developing the responsibility among the married women as an important behavioral skill. 3) Enhancing their educational level and increasing the educational opportunities for them. In that case, one of the most important necessities of the developing countries, HWS, will be significantly improved.


Not applicable.


No Animals/Humans were used for studies that are base of this research.


Not applicable.


The authors declare no conflict of interest, financial or otherwise.


I would like to thank Yasouj University Office of Vice Chancellor for Research for its financial support.


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