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Reducing plastic waste in the workplace: a program evaluation

Alieena Mathew (Department of Social Marketing @ Griffith, Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia)
Sebastian Isbanner (Department of Social Marketing @ Griffith, Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia)
Sharyn Rundle-Thiele (Department of Marketing, Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia)

Journal of Social Marketing

ISSN: 2042-6763

Article publication date: 8 January 2024

Issue publication date: 7 May 2024




This study aims to develop a research agenda for the advancement of theory application in practical contexts by presenting a case study of the Engagement in Plastic-free Innovation for Change (EPIC) programme delivered by Plastic Oceans Australasia (POA).


EPIC is a behaviour change programme by POA that aims to reduce single-use plastic (SUP) consumption in workplaces. The study evaluates the programme’s impact on employee perceptions and actual behaviour through pre- and post-programme data collection in two Australian workplaces. Data was gathered via online surveys and waste audits and analysed using SPSS statistics and Excel.


The case study highlights the need for theory application in programme evaluation instruments. Theory was not used in the programme evaluation tool, and theory could not be mapped onto the tool retroactively. The data from the present study showed mixed results. Data from Workplaces 1 and 2 indicated that EPIC successfully improved three out of seven employee perceptions of SUP reduction efforts. However, individual workplace data showed that EPIC only improved one out of seven perceptions in Workplace 1 and three out of seven perceptions in Workplace 2. Surprisingly, Workplace 1 observed a decrease in plastic waste after the programme, while Workplace 2 saw an increase. Without the clear integration of theory, it is difficult to pinpoint areas for improvement. It is, however, posited that COVID-19 restrictions on people attending their workplaces and low survey response rates may have contributed to these unexpected results.

Practical implications

The present study highlights key improvements that can be made to evaluations of voluntary behaviour change programmes. Careful evaluation of behaviour change programmes is key to improving programme effectiveness. Practitioners will find the suggested improvements from this study helpful in developing and refining voluntary behaviour change programme evaluations.


This is one of the first studies to evaluate the impacts of a voluntary behaviour change programme aimed at reducing SUPs in the workplace. It also adds to the limited literature on voluntary behaviour change interventions overall and adds to the movement towards better application of theory in behaviour change interventions.



The authors would like to acknowledge and thank POA for their assistance in procuring the data for this study. POA played no role in the evaluation research design, analysis and interpretation of data or the decision to submit the paper for publication. They accept no responsibility for the contents.

Funding: The authors confirm that there has been no significant financial support for this work that could have influenced its outcome.

Potential conflicts of interest: The authors confirm that there are no known conflicts of interest associated with this work.

Data: Data available on request.

Authors’ contributions: AM procured the data from POA and was responsible for cleaning and analysing the data. SI provided statistical guidance and overview. AM was actively involved in all stages of research and was heavily involved in writing the manuscript. SI and SRT provided critical feedback on and assisted in drafting the manuscript and provided advice and assistance in terms of overall research design.

Corrigendum: It has come to the attention of the publisher that the article, Mathew, A., Isbanner, S. and Rundle-Thiele, S. (2024), “Reducing plastic waste in the workplace: a program evaluation”, Journal of Social Marketing, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print., was published with missing information to the source text of Tables 1-6. This has now been corrected in the online version of the paper. The authors sincerely apologise for any inconvenience caused.


Mathew, A., Isbanner, S. and Rundle-Thiele, S. (2024), "Reducing plastic waste in the workplace: a program evaluation", Journal of Social Marketing, Vol. 14 No. 2, pp. 228-249.



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