The generation of waste and their final disposal after consumption constitute one of the serious urban problems faced not only by Brazilian cities, but also by urban regions of the whole world. The growing body of information available about the global environmental deterioration has helped to increase the awareness about the repercussion of actions at the local scale, as in the case of consumerism and natural resources exploitation. The selective collection of garbage represents one alternative of reducing the environmental problem of waste disposal; however, it is a complex phenomenon, of multiple dimensions, determinants e social actors (residents, formal and informal collectors, political authorities, and so on). The general purpose of the study was the analysis of residents’ participation in the program of door-by-door collection of recyclable waste in Natal, to verify whether their involvement in the program could be attributed to environmental commitment. A special relevance may be attached to this study for there are few investigations in Brazil on the resident’s point of view about the selective collection of garbage. Data collection involved three municipal districts and was performed in three stages, with complementary methodological strategies (observation, questionnaire, and interview), and characterized by self-evaluation, by residents, and hetero-evaluation, by collectors. In order to help in the analysis of residents’ adherence to the program, social, demographic, situational/contextual, and dispositional data were identified. Additionally, documents were examined and municipal managers were interviewed to gather information about the “official” side of the program. The conception of the program by municipal authorities was basically aimed at social inclusion, providing job opportunities and income for the collectors. At the same time, middle-class and upper middleclass districts of the city were chosen to be included in the program of door-by-door collection of recyclable residuals based on the volume already known of their regularly produced garbage. It is important to mention that previous campaigns by the municipality of installing of Points of Voluntary Delivery (PEVs, in Portuguese) of recyclable residuals did not succeed; residents’ personal convenience and logistic of the program were responsible for its failure in the past. Two forms of motivation towards participating in the program were found: environmental and social. Despite the first being more frequent, it was associated to lack of a full social involvement with the program. Separating and delivering recyclable residuals (at the front door to the collector) were the most frequent type of residents’ participation, which demonstrates their low level of appropriation of decisions related to the program, taking part on it as passive agents. Questionnaire responses expressing environmental awareness related to the process may imply a mere reproduction of pro-environmental discourse. Motivation towards social issues was strongly connected to philanthropic forms of help. Knowledge was revealed as an important predictor for participation, as well as social networks, formed by neighbours, relatives and friends. Despite the social emphasis in the design of the program, some residents also perceived its environmental implications, possibly as consequence of a knowledge originated outside the program. Even so, we could not find any mention to reduction of consumption, a much more ef- ficient measure against residuals generation, but with a high cost in behaviour change. The perfectioning of the municipal program should include initiatives of environmental education and information in order to minimize the allegation of lack of knowledge as justification for non-participation. Similarly, joint actions of municipal management and population would be welcome, to promote participatory decisions towards lifestyles more ecologically sustainable.