Skip to main content
Outside compost educational display

An agent-based modelling simulation on nudging recycling behaviour for novel materials: A case study for bioplastics


British Academy

Value to Coventry University


Project Team

Macarena Beltran and Benny Tjahjono


April 2023 - May 2024

Project Overview

This project examines in what ways a nudge recycling campaign influences the disposal behaviour of bioplastics in higher education (HE) students. Bioplastics represent an example of a product, which despite its environmental benefits, ends up in landfills and incinerators due to a lack of waste disposal options for consumers. A "green" nudge campaign was launched by UNEP in 2020 for HE institutions, a sector with 208.6 million students (average of 2.67 t CO2e per student). Behavioural interventions, however, are not always straightforward and typically focus on conventional plastics.

This research will test and estimate the potential of a nudging recycling intervention on bioplastic disposal in an enclosed setting (educational/workplace) by coupling social experiments with an agent-based model. Coventry University will be used as an "open laboratory" to conduct the study, allowing qualitative data (observational and interview data) to be collected. These data are critical for simulating and calibrating recycling behaviour scenarios.

Project Objectives

  • Identify the factors predicting the recycling behaviour of consumers.
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of a nudge recycling campaign on waste management of bioplastic packaging materials within a university environment.
  • Develop a model of recycling behaviour to predict the effectiveness of a nudge recycling campaign in packaging materials.
  • Appraise different recycling behavioural scenarios for the recycling of bioplastics - a laboratory for solving "what-if" questions.

Impact Statement

We will contribute to ongoing scientific efforts to rethink and reconceptualise waste management (WM) from the consumer's perspective. New materials are disrupting the existing inefficient recycling system, but to successfully place them on the market, new conceptualisations are required based on sustainable CE economy principles. This conceptual refinement, along with its potential impact on behavioural intentions, will contribute to advancing this analytical framework. Furthermore, the study will provide new explanations through the model and prediction of the effectiveness of behavioural interventions aimed at improving the disposal of novel packaging products in a workplace and educational setting. It is expected that integrating social experiments and ABM simulations will set up new questions and hypotheses as well as provide state-of-the-art insights.

In terms of practical impacts, the project is expected to provide specific recommendations for the public, universities and non-governmental organisations implementing nudge campaigns to reconfigure recycling practices, such as UNEP and WRAP, and for universities that want to improve their sustainability rankings by promoting a greener environment.


We anticipate the following outputs:

  •  Academic paper with the results of the research.
  • Nudge recycling campaign at Coventry University
  • Open simulation
 Queen’s Award for Enterprise Logo
University of the year shortlisted
QS Five Star Rating 2023