Solid Waste Management: Planning and Implementation of a Cultural Design

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The field of behavior analysis has long been known for its advances in strategies to intervene on individual behavior; however, many behavior analysts have also been developing strategies to arrange contingencies for cultural practices. The cultural practices of interest are those that represent good prospects for the survival of humankind. Solid waste management, for example, has been an important target of interventions. Interventions can be designed to change behaviors related to the inappropriate disposal of waste, which otherwise generates public health problems. The current study describes a case of planning and applying a cultural design to foster behaviors that make up an adequate cultural practice of solid waste management with children who attended a nongovernmental organization. The cultural design emphasized maintaining the practice for the long term. Two studies were conducted. The 1st study consisted of planning a cultural design, supported by a guide developed by Carrara et al. (“Desenvolvimento de guia e fluxograma como suporte para delineamentos culturais [Guide and Flow-Chart Development as Support for Cultural Designs],” Acta Comportamentalia, 21[1], 99–119, 2013). Researchers surveyed the demands related to natural resources management in the community. Then, they investigated the cultural practice of inadequate solid waste management, which was identified as the most urgent practice to be modified. Based on the data and analysis, interventions were planned to modify the target practice. The interventions included changes in the environment, instructions and instruction-related activities, an educational game, and a practical activity (composting) focused on maintaining the practice without the need for arbitrary reinforcers. The previously planned interventions were then implemented in the 2nd study. The results suggest that the strategies employed were effective in establishing the target practices, and the follow-up data indicated that the behaviors were maintained.

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  1. 1.

    Social vulnerability refers to people with low scores in urban infrastructure (access to basic sanitation services and urban mobility), human capital (related to health and education), income, and work. The criteria for social vulnerability are based on a study from the Instituto de Pesquisa Econômica Aplicada (2015).

  2. 2.

    The first author was the researcher who contacted all the participants and applied the interventions described in this research.

  3. 3.

    The green bags were distributed to the population by domestic waste recycling cooperatives per the policy of the local Municipal Transit and Urbanism Company.


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Author Note

The authors would like to thank the anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments and Dr. Traci Cihon for the careful editing of the manuscript.


This research did not receive any funding.

Author information

Correspondence to Camila Muchon de Melo.

Ethics declarations

This research was submitted and approved by the Ethics Committee on Research involving Human Beings from Universidade Estadual de Londrina, Brazil, under the certificate number (CAAE) 5315 3515.6.0000.5231.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Informed Consent

The informed consent form was sent to parents or guardians, informing them about the study and requesting permission for their children’s participation

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Hayashi, C.M., Woelz, T.A. & de Melo, C.M. Solid Waste Management: Planning and Implementation of a Cultural Design. Behav. Soc. Iss. 28, 316–337 (2019) doi:10.1007/s42822-019-00019-6

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  • applied behavior analysis
  • cultural design
  • cultural planning
  • cultural practice
  • solid waste management
  • sustainability