Tackling the plastic problem: A review on perceptions, behaviors, and interventions

Lea Marie Heidbreder, Isabella Bablok, Stefan Drews, Claudia Menzel

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleResearchpeer-review

251 Citations (Scopus)


© 2019 Elsevier B.V. The excessive production and consumption of plastic has serious consequences on the environment and human health. The reduction of plastic has therefore become a major global challenge. As technical solutions might be insufficient to curb the problem, a perspective highlighting the impact of human behavior is needed. The current literature review provides an overview of the existing social-scientific literature on plastic, ranging from risk awareness, consumers’ preferences, and predictors of usage behavior to political and psychological intervention strategies. By reviewing the literature, we aim to identify potential factors for future interventions to reduce plastic consumption. The 187 studies reviewed show that people much appreciate and routinely use plastic, despite a pronounced awareness of the associated problems. Habits, norms, and situational factors seem to be especially predictive for plastic consumption behavior. Both political and psychological interventions are potentially effective, although long-term effects are often uncertain. The review closes with implications for behavior-based solutions and future research, which should combine interdisciplinary approaches and take into account cultural differences.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1077-1093
JournalScience of the total environment
Publication statusPublished - 10 Jun 2019


  • Behavior-based solutions
  • Consumer behavior
  • Environmental psychology
  • Plastic pollution
  • Problem awareness


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