In recent years, a debate has emerged around the potential of plastic pollution to direct attention away from other, arguably more urgent environmental issues, such as climate change. Little research has examined pro-environmental behavior (PEB) spillover from engaging in action against plastic pollution (plastic PEB) to supporting climate change policy. In this study, 81 undergraduate students at a university in the Netherlands completed a plastic cleanup activity as part of a sustainability-focused course. Subsequently, these students, as well as 80 students in a control condition, completed an online survey assessing frequency of engagement in plastic PEB, climate change concern, environmental self-identity, and support for a campus climate change fund. Results showed no spillover from plastic PEB to climate change policy support. However, this study also investigated the potential mediating effect of climate change concern, which revealed that frequency of engagement in plastic PEB had a significant positive effect on climate change concern, but climate change concern had no effect on climate change policy support. These findings suggest that encouraging individuals to engage in plastic PEB can increase awareness and concern about climate change, yet there is a disconnect between climate change concern and climate change policy support. The results of this study have implications for those interested in PEB spillover between different environmental issues, specifically using widespread initiatives, such as plastic cleanup activities and recycling, to increase awareness and policy support for other sustainability efforts.
Is plastic pollution a distraction from climate change? A study of pro-environmental behavior spillover from action against plastic pollution to support for climate change policy © 2021 by Anya Al-Salem is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0