Facilitating opportunities for social learning about sustainable waste management
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
This study contributes to filling a gap identified in the current Malaysian national waste policy, the National Strategic Plan for Solid Waste Management (NSPSWM 2005). It also contributes to the sparse knowledge of NGOs’ involvement in Malaysia in promoting recycling and general environmental awareness with the Malaysian public particularly in an urban context. Although the NSPSWM alludes to NGOs as actors that can assist in improving the public’s awareness of and participation in sustainable waste management (SWM), there is sparse knowledge on how this is facilitated. This study was also motivated to investigate to what extent social learning elements were being embodied in the initiatives of two NGOs that were studied, as it is posited that facilitations for social learning create pathways for change. Although there are various studies on the functions of NGOs, there is little research conducted on how environmental NGOs play a part in SWM in Malaysia.
The research approach applied in this thesis was mixed-methods, and the rationale was to apply both qualitative and quantitative methods that would be useful and would combine complementary strengths to help answer the research questions. A qualitative two-case-study approach was used to predict similar or contrasting results based on the theoretical framework considered relevant. The unit of analysis of each case study was a programme that promoted recycling as a sustainable waste management strategy, to the general public in the study area of Selangor, Malaysia. The first case study’s target audience was urban school students; while the second case study’s focus was urban school students, charity homes for the handicapped and hypermarkets. Both NGOs are considered two of the earliest NGOs in the study area to be involved in promoting SWM with the public. The quantitative aspects included findings from a questionnaire survey of 411 students. The population sampled was obtained based on a stratified sampling procedure. The urban student population’s response was collected to gain insights into students’ perception of NGOs’ involvement in SWM, and into what factors significantly influence the students’ recycling participation in schools. Both descriptive and inferential analyses were conducted. The findings from this approach complemented the qualitative findings obtained from the two case studies. In addition, interviews were conducted with some students to complement the survey evidence. Where relevant, secondary evidence from the press, reports and Web pages were used to support the primary evidence.
The qualitative evidence was synthesized and the aggregated findings were then triangulated with the quantitative evidence for corroboration purposes. These evaluations revealed that the processes involved in the programmes to promote recycling supported social learning and positive outcomes. Almost half of the students sampled were aware and welcomed NGOs’ involvement in SWM, both in schools and in their community. They reported that they learned more about SWM and the environment from participating in their school’s SWM programmes (although these programmes may not necessarily have been facilitated by the particular environmental NGO identified in the case studies). The students also generally perceived that the government should support NGOs’ involvement in SWM and that SWM programmes in schools coordinated by NGOs were beneficial to their learning about SWM. Various factors were also found to have influenced their participation in sustainable waste behavior.
The findings could be used to inform the relevant policy makers’ decisions about NGOs’ contributions towards SWM. In addition, the findings from the students’ survey could help inform other NGOs or other organisations, such as universities or corporate bodies that are interested in implementing SWM programmes with schools and who may be eager to extend their corporate social responsibilities using approaches similar to those highlighted in this thesis.