Behind closed bins. On the use of human pranopticism in reversed waste collection in Beuningen and Druten

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Over the past few years, multiple municipalities in the Netherlands decide to employ a waste coach. This social approach should decrease the distance between the citizen and the policy maker through personal communication. Besides, a waste coach can perform specific tasks in the field of work, and can be involved in special public actions. To date, little is known about this complex role of the waste coach and it is unknown to what extent this effect has on the behavior of citizens. The goal of this research is to determine the role of the waste coach in stimulating the correct use of a reversed waste collection system, by developing the concept of human panopticism. The theory of the panopticon of Michel Foucault was used to develop the new concept, human panopticism. Human panopticism refers to a situation in which the effects of the panopticon are achieved by direct human contact, and not by physical or digital means. Fieldwork was conducted between October 2016 and March 2017. The researcher literally dropped into a waste coach's skin and could thus come close to the citizen. Many conversations have been held, interviews were conducted and data is collected from other sources. This data has been analyzed and could ultimately answer the main question. The main question was how does the presence of a waste coach stimulate the correct use of a reversed waste collection system by citizens of Druten and Beuningen, and how is this explained through human panopticism? This research identifies five aspects that contribute to the choice, whether conscious or not, of citizens to properly separate their waste. These five aspects are financial aspects, convenience, sustainability, information and knowledge and status and self-image. Each of these aspects were also present in the studied literature and were used by policy makers to make citizens comply to the policy better. The waste coach could influence the information and knowledge a citizen possesses and has an influence on the status and self-image of the citizen. The latter is where human panopticism plays a role and where this research goes into depth. The research aimed at evaluating the effect of a waste coach, which turned out to be the strongest through face-to-face contact. The results showed that citizens separate their waste mostly because it was the norm and they did not want to be caught deviating from that norm. Citizens showed that they are embarrassed when the waste coach confronted with the fact that the waste rules are not carried out properly by them. The waste coaches were often seen as an authoritarian figure, partly because of the yellow jacket, and could therefore make use of the citizens’ feelings of pride and shame. In this study, the direct effect of human panopticism was discovered. In general, the immediate presence of the waste coach made citizens aware of the fact that they could be watched or confronted everywhere. The fear of this confrontation meant that they adjusted their waste behavior immediately. In addition, indirect or direct confrontation with the waste coach leads to self-reflection among the citizens. The mere presence of the waste coach reminds the citizens of the subjective norm regarding waste separation. Using conversations, the citizens could also test their own behavior to the subjective norm that was symbolized by the waste coach, which strengthens their reflection on their own waste behavior. This confrontation with their own behavior leads to self-reflection that goes beyond just the places the waste coach can check and further than the fear of confrontation. It goes beyond closed doors and even beyond closed bins, because it affects their self-image. And this is exactly the purpose of a panopticon. You behave, even though you do not know if you are watched. Furthermore, due to the different public controlling actions of the waste coach, the citizens started to control not only themselves but also each other. This led to a human panopticon in which the citizens became both the controlling body and the controlled group, leaving the waste coach as nothing more than the inventor of the panopticon.
Faculteit der Managementwetenschappen