A Caribbean Call to Action: Behaviour Change Strategies to Reduce Local Plastic Waste

Luis Cruz-Martinez, Luis-Pablo Herve-Claude, and Craig Stephen


The continuous accumulation of plastic debris in marine environments worldwide is a global threat (Van Sebille et ah, 2015). An impactful example is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, where approximately 80,000 tons of floating plastic have accumulated in an area of 1.6 million km2 (Lebreton et ah, 2018). Sea turtles, sea birds, and marine mammals are experiencing morbidity and mortality mainly from entanglement and ingestion of this persistent plastic debris (Gall and Thompson, 2015).

Urgent action is needed to prevent plastic reaching the oceans (Law, 2017) and to promote local actions that combat this global threat (MacDonald et ah, 2015), especially in small island nations where recycling and reuse options are limited. A call to action informed by principles of behaviour change is needed to prompt people to think and act on this marine pollution issue. Here we share a series of interventions to encourage people to reduce the amount of waste from disposable food items (plastic and Styrofoam, primarily), at an institution of higher medical education in the Caribbean, specifically Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine, showing how behaviour change theory can lead to success.


A small team of faculty, staff, and students was formed to undertake a series of steps to promote reduced plastic pollution. We used the health belief model, theory of planned behaviour, and the transtheoretical model (Glanz et al., 2008) as our theoretical foundations (see Chapter 9 for a description of these concepts). We complemented them with elements from human behaviour disciplines and concepts, including Maslow’s hierarchical human needs framework, behavioural economics, conservation psychology, and positive psychology. We used guiding questions to (i) identify people’s attitudes and beliefs (their mindset) about the problem, solutions, and capacity to create change; and (ii) to identify the social norm that guided their mindset (Table 20.1). This information is crucial for

TABLE 20.1

Guiding Questions to Explore a Person's Mindset on Problems, Solutions, and Capacity and Willingness to Act

Drivers of Mindset

Guiding Questions


(positive, neutral, or negative personal evaluations)

Is it severe?

Will I be affected ? Is it urgent ?


(thoughts, opinions, and perceptions that are considered as truth) (Including cognitive and emotional responses)

Is it affecting me/us now that I need to take immediate action? What are the costs and barriers ?

Are the benefits greater or less than the costs?

Do I have enough resources to act ?

Am I in control of my actions ?

Will my actions matter towards the solution or are they irrelevant?

Can I make a difference with available resources and conditions? Will I be capable of complying?

Norms and conditions (expectations from others, what other people are doing, what I’m supposed to comply with)

What are most people doing about the problem ?

What should I do when little is being done by others?

Do I want to comply with society/industry/organization’s expectations?

What are influential people doing?

Why should I comply with my superiors when they are not complying and are contributing to the problem?

What am I expected to do in this group situation?

Strategies for matching behaviour change interventions with the mindset

FIGURE 20.1 Strategies for matching behaviour change interventions with the mindset (attitudes and beliefs) of people in the different stages of change. This diagram was created based on the transtheoretical model.

creating and applying specific strategies that resonate with people based on their readiness for change (Figure 20.1).


How to transmit an effective call to action on campus that (i) inspires people to take immediate action, (ii) convinces people to believe their actions (large or small) are impactful, and (iii) encourages people to disseminate the message further? We identified the driving mindsets and social norms through surveys, one- on-one conversations, and by participating in various committees and activities.

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