Consumption of electronics has increased steadily in the Nordic countries over the past two decades, creating an associated increase in amounts of electronic waste. The main measure to offset this trend is producer responsibility, which means the seller of any electronic good has the responsibility for the waste generated by the sale. There is, however, a growing awareness that policies targeting the supply side (production) needs to be complemented by measures targeting the demand side (consumption) to enable individuals to make more sustainable choices in their consumption of electronics. This includes actions that induce consumers to buy fewer electronical goods, more environmentally friendly or long -lived electronic goods, use products they own longer, and increase the re-use as well as recycling of electronics.
This report focuses on the possibility of using so-called nudging to increase sustainable consumption of electronics: to encourage or nudge consumers towards more sustainable consumption choices. A nudge can be defined as a way to design a situation of choice and the way options are presented (also called choice architecture), in order to change people’s behaviour in a predictable way without eliminating their opportunities or changing their incentives.
Our study, published by the Nordic Council of Ministers, investigates how nudging has been used and can be used to increase sustainable consumption of electronics. The results show that there is a theoretical potential to use nudging to achieve sustainable consumption, mainly in the purchase of new electronics, but also to get individuals to use products longer (by for example increasing repairs). However, as far as we know, no scientific experiments have been done on electronics consumption with specific focus on behavioural economics.
To investigate consumer behaviour in a specific market, we conducted a pilot experiment that concerns consumption of mobile phones among young people aged 19 to 28.Based on the results, we find that nudging may potentially have a major effect on sustainable consumption of mobile phones among young people, especially by increasing the number of repairs and increasing the number of used phones bought. However, the mobile phone market’s structure may potentially prevent the application of the results.