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  • Subject area(s): Marketing
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  • Published on: 14th September 2019
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Over the last decade consumers have become increasingly concerned about protecting the environment (Polonsky, 2008). Businesses have responded to this by modifying their practices in order to address these growing pressures (Polonsky, 2008). Green Marketing is the process of promoting services or protects which offer environmental benefits (Investopedia, 2018). This concept consists of eclectic activities, from developing environmentally-friendly products to modifying production processes in an attempt to reduce carbon emissions (Investopedia, 2018).  Many companies, including outdoor retailer Nordic Nature Shop, have taken advantage of this concept by developing environmentally friendly products such as clothing items including t-shirts (Fuentes, 2015). This illustrates the growing popularity of green marketing practises which may provide these firms with a competitive advantage and allow them to differentiate themselves from their competitors (Porter, 1985).

Textiles recycling has grown in popularity over the last few years as consumers are increasingly aware of the impact on landfill sites as a result of unsustainable disposal of garments (Smithers, 2017). According to the charity ‘Clothes Aid', 350,000 tonnes of useable textile garments end up in landfill every year in the UK (Clothes Aid , 2013). This is a significant amount of garment waste and this quantity may continue to rise in the future due to the detrimental effects of fast fashion (Perry, 2018). The UK Textile Recycling Charity state that recycling worn garments can reduce pollution as it may minimise the need to source materials from overseas and therefore less carbon emissions are omitted (UK Textile Recycling, 2010). It is therefore beneficial for consumers to continue to recycle their unwanted clothes in order to protect the environment and reduce pollution.

The behaviour of consumers regarding textile recycling can be linked to the Theory of Planned Behaviour (Francis et al. 2004). This model focuses on three main variables including attitudes, subjective norms and perceived behavioural control, with the first two variables linking to consumer behaviour and attitudes (Francis et al. 2004). The ‘attitudes' element refers to whether the individual has positive beliefs on a topic or idea (Francis et al. 2004). For example, if an individual's friends and family possess favourable views on textile recycling they may be more inclined to also hold these beliefs. The second element includes ‘subjective norms', which refers to the social pressures within group situations. Consumers may be more inclined to recycle their used garments if they see their friends exhibiting the same behaviours, in order to not feel isolated from the group. The ability to change one of these factors may result in a desired behaviour or attitude (Francis et al. 2004).

The purpose of this study is to identify student's attitudes and behaviours towards textile recycling at the University of Exeter; as there is limited known research on this matter (Walter, 2008). The findings of this study will allow the researcher to identify how Governments and businesses can implement changes in order to facilitate recycling within the student population.

Research questions

The guiding research questions for the questionnaire include;

1. ‘Do students have positive attitudes towards textile recycling?'

2. ‘Do students exhibit positive behaviours towards textile recycling?'

3. ‘What can the government as well as businesses do to help facilitate textile recycling within the student population?'

Section 2- Methodology

Research design

The research design for this study would be a descriptive research design (Bishop, 2018). This involves uncovering consumers' attitudes and behaviours towards the chosen topic (Bishop, 2018). This design would be relevant as the researcher is intending to understand student's views and behaviours on textile recycling and the measures that can be implemented to improve this within the student population.

A self-administered questionnaire will be compiled in order to answer the research questions (Bishop, 2018). The questionnaire will consist of twelve closed questions, which have been sectioned into categorical data measurements, including nominal and ordinal measures (Stevens, 1946). The questions consist of a mixture of dichotomous, rating scale, Likert scale and multiple-choice questions (Innovation, Science and Development Canada, 2018). The closed questions allow for a controlled analysis and are less time consuming for participants to complete compared to open questions, thus saving time and resources (Defranzo, 2014).

On the contrary, it can be argued that open questions produce more in-depth and diverse responses (Reja et al. 2003), ultimately facilitating meaningful insights on the research question. Additionally, the investigator will need to account for potential bias that may arise from closed questions, due to the preselected answers (Reja et al. 2003).  In order to account for this issue, the researcher would need to plan each question, ensuring a range of possible responses are provided.

The questionnaire will be sent to participants digitally using the market survey website, Survey Monkey. The digital survey has been chosen in order to maximise response rates where possible (Bishop, 2018), as research indicates that paper-based surveys receive lower response rates when compared to those presented on the Internet (Shih et al. 2008).

Self-administered questionnaires are also arguably advantageous compared to other data collection forms for a number of reasons. For example, they are more convenient for the participants compared to other techniques such as personal interviews; where an appropriate time would need to be organised for both the researcher and the participant to conduct the interview (Denscombe, 2010). Furthermore, questionnaires facilitate a wealth of information to be obtained from the student population in a relatively short period of time (Wright, 2005). This is beneficial as it allows for more data to be collected overall and ultimately improves the validity of the results.

Antithetically, a disadvantage of using this data collection method is the issue of social desirability bias (McLeod, 2018). This is when individuals may lie in order to be seen in a positive light (McLeod, 2018). In this questionnaire, this may involve participants selecting the options that would illustrate that they exhibit favourable behaviours towards textile recycling. This may mean that invalid conclusions are drawn, as they are based on inaccurate data, and therefore the government and business may not be able to use this data for the development of schemes to promote textile recycling.

The importance of a pilot study

Before the questionnaire is sent to respondents it is important to conduct a pilot study. A pilot study is a small-scale investigation of the actual study (Teijlingen & Hundley, 2001). Pilot studies are imperative as they enable the researcher to identify if there are any mistakes in the questionnaire (Teijlingen & Hundley, 2001), such as leading or ambiguous questions (Bishop, 2018), which had not been identified beforehand. This is beneficial as it will ensure valid and reliable results are obtained as participants would not be affected by any mistakes in the wording of the questions.

Sample and the sampling method

The sample size will be approximately 1,000 students. A large sample is important as it increases the representativeness of the overall attitudes and beliefs that students have with regard to textile recycling, as well as decreasing uncertainty as it takes into account more opinions (Biau et al. 2008). This would be advantageous as the researcher can gain an in-depth understanding of participants' views and behaviours, therefore allowing specific measures to be implemented in order to promote textile recycling.

Random sampling will be used to obtain the participants from the student population. This is where each member of the population has an equal chance of being selected to participate in the study (Hague, 2006). This is beneficial as it ensures a fair selection process (Lu et al. 2012) and thus reduces the risk of sampling bias (Foley, 2018). However, other techniques, such as stratified sampling, allow for greater precision in the acquisition process, which enables a smaller sample to be acquired and therefore result in fewer costs for the researcher (Lu et al. 2012). However, the most appropriate method for this questionnaire is random sampling as it requires a large sample in order to obtain an in-depth idea of the behaviours and attitudes students hold on textiles recycling.

To obtain the sample a sampling frame should be drafted (Denscombe, 2010). This includes all the elements of the population, upon which a random sample can be obtained. Each element is given a number and then a random number generator would be used to obtain the numerical value (Denscombe, 2010). The corresponding individual who acquires that number would then be selected to participate in the study (Denscombe, 2010).

Analysis and interpretation of the data

The data would be analysed using Measures of Central Tendency, such as the Mode (Manikandan, 2011). This would identify the most common value in the data for each question (Manikandan, 2011). The data may be multimodal, which illustrates that there are two or more data points of equal frequency (Manikandan, 2011). The researcher would be able to use the Multiple Mode function on Microsoft Excel. This is beneficial as it means that the mode can easily be calculated and allow the researcher to obtain the results quickly (Manikandan, 2011).

The frequency component on Microsoft Excel may also be a beneficial tool. This involves totalling the number of responses for each question and recording it in a frequency table (Microsoft Office, 2018). The data is grouped into intervals and the corresponding data that is included in that range is counted (Microsoft Office, 2018). The investigator could then calculate the percentage of the population who recycle regularly, for example. The use of a frequency table would enable the researcher to acquire an overall view of the number of responses for each question and thus make valid inferences from this data.

Once the data has been organised, it would be useful for the researcher to gain an idea of the overall distribution. The use of descriptive statistics such as bar charts and pie charts (Hague, 2006) may be compiled to allow the researcher to visually analyse the results and thus make informed conclusions.

Ethical considerations and problems in the methodology

When conducting research, it is important to take into account the ethical considerations in the methodology. In this questionnaire, respondents will not be asked to state their name or other personal details and therefore the anonymity of respondents is protected (Fox et al. 2003). This reduces the risk of potential bias during the analysis processes and therefore increases the reliability (Fox et al. 2003). In addition, confidentiality of personal information has become increasing important due to the implementation of the Data Protection Act, which states that personal information should be secured as well as safeguarding against unlawful processing (GOV.UK, 2018). After completion of the questionnaire, participants would be informed that their responses will not be sold to a third-party and therefore their results will be treated in the strictest confidence.

Furthermore, the researcher would need to be wary of the different types of survey errors that may arise such as non-response error (Miller, 2018). This is when individuals within the sample do not complete the questionnaire (Miller, 2018). This may cause issues as the researcher may not acquire an overall view of the attitudes and behaviours of the sample. To overcome this, the researcher could communicate with the selected sample about the importance of conducting the questionnaire to aid in the development of knowledge within this research discipline (Jones et al. 2008).

Section 3- Conclusion

This research is imperative in informing the government and textile businesses on students' attitudes and actions towards recycling so that action can be taken based on the findings acquired.  

From conducting this research, the researcher would be able to identify whether students hold positive views and behaviours towards textile recycling. This in turn can therefore be used to determine whether more schemes need to be developed in order to promote this topic. For example, question 8 asks respondent to identify what initiatives the government can implement in order to facilitate recycling. The options include incentives schemes as well as the development of educational programmes. The Government can gain an insight into where they can focus their efforts and allocate their budgeted funding in order to promote textile recycling and ultimately help conserve the environment.

To add to this, it will inform businesses on the attitudes of consumers. For example, question 9 asks respondents to highlight whether businesses can do more to promote textile recycling. The results would allow firms to gain a better understanding of student's views. If the majority of responses illustrate that students believe businesses can do more to facilitate recycling, then necessary actions can be taken. The head of sustainability at the British Retail Consortium, Peter Andrews, mentions that many of their members are now producing garments with a longer life span in order to reduce the amount of waste that ends up in landfill (Harrabin, 2018). This shows that businesses are starting to take into account the disposal of their products on the environment. Overall, the results would add to such business knowledge and therefore give the opportunity for firms to develop different initiatives and ultimately inform their marketing practise by offering different initiatives to promote textile recycling.

Overall, this questionnaire would aid researchers in gaining a better understanding of student's attitudes and behaviours towards textile recycling and enable governments as well as businesses to focus their resources on promoting this topical issue.

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