Final Report Continued

Research

We wanted to know what other projects had been done to improve recycling at the Villages, to determine if any changes had been made. After reading the "Waste Audit and Survey" Thesis Project by Mark Pletsch completed in 1994, we realized that his recommendations were similar to ours.

More interesting were his waste audit results. The report showed that the average amount of recyclables found in garbage was 13.4% (Pletsch, p.25). It is our goal to reduce this percentage through proper signage and by increasing accessibility to recycling facilities (this is further discussed in the Final Product section).

In Pletsch's report, a survey was conducted about residents preference regarding the presence of a blue box in their room (Pletsch, p.34). The results were:

  1. Students preferred this system, but said the boxes were too small;
  2. 16.7% said the box would "get in the way";
  3. 9.7% said the box would "smell";
  4. 57.3% said it was "no problem".

    These results are important because it shows that the majority of students want a blue box in their rooms and do not mind its size (57.3%). Also, those students who did not think it was a good idea, often complained about odour and size. This makes it clear that we can not force those who do not blue boxes to use one; but most importantly, we should give those students who want to recycle an opportunity to do so (refer to Final Product)

    Limitations

    Our project faced a number of limiting factors which affected the approach that we could use and the depth we could achieve in the final product. With the current financial situation of universities, money has to be taken into account when organizing any project. We had originally hoped to produce a poster for distribution within the residences, but this is a major undertaking and requires significant capital expenditure. As we did not have access to this type of funding the production of the poster was determined to be unfeasible.

    In addition to funding, other major limitations were time and timing. The scope of our project had to be narrow enough to be feasible for completion within a three month period. Initially, we had hoped to have a broader scope but upon reflection we realized that to achieve a final product of quality we would have to limit the amount we hoped to accomplish. Thus, we focused in on recycling education.

    Final Product

    We will be producing a variety of educational products that deal with recycling. An information kit will be provided to dons in both Village residences; it will give them information regarding recycling practices for both the university and the Region of Waterloo programs. At the residences, recycling is collected by the Region of Waterloo, on campus recycling is collected by a private hauling company.

    Due to the different systems it is important that students know how items should be recycled in the two different places. The enclosed brochures will demonstrate which items are accepted in each system. Dons will be encouraged to discuss this information with their houses at the beginning of term. We hope that by supplying this information to dons they will help to pass it along to the other students on their floor and will be able to answer questions as they come up.

    A key component to our education plan is through the use of posters. We have devised a number of posters to display in the lounges detailing how recyclables should be handled. As well, there is information on other high use items and how they can be recycled on campus. Copies of these posters will be provided to dons in their information kit, additional copies will be available through Patti Cook.

    We have contacted the Region of Waterloo and arranged to pick-up 1900 pamphlets on the multi residential recycling program. These pamphlets will be provided to the villages for distribution by the housekeepers or dons. Ideally, they will be put on the back of every door in the Village I residence for quick reference by students as to what is recyclable and how. This will meet with less success, than if we were able to personally post them ourselves but this is not possible.

    A sign up list for blue boxes will be posted by dons in every lounge. The problem with blue boxes in the past has been that some students did not want them in their rooms, and at the end of term many disappeared. We believe that if students volunteer to have a blue box in their room they will be more likely to become active in recycling and will ensure that the box remains in the room. In order to decrease the loss of boxes we have developed a sample contract which the student and housing administration both sign, indicating that the student has received a blue box and it will be added to the inventory of their room. This way, at the end of term during sign outs the blue box will be checked along with other furnishings, thus deterring students from removing them.

    Barriers

    During the school term it is difficult to gain access to residence rooms. For security reasons it is best for us to put up posters after this term's students have left. However, this means that we will have to make a return trip to complete the final portion of our project. Due to the conference schedule this year, it would be impossible until Labour Day weekend. This means that we will have to rely on the support of dons, administrationa and housemothers within the Villages. Thus, we will had to change our original approach on how to distribute pamphlets. This is not an ideal situation, we would have prefered to be able to distribute the pamphlets ourselves, but htis is no longer possible.

    Recommendations

    1) Blue Box Volunteers

    Due to space limitations many students do not wish to have blue boxes in their residence rooms. We feel that it is important to give students the option to participate in the recycling program. Instead of placing a box in every room we have developed a sign up sheet which can be posted in the lounges, one copy will also be provided to dons. The dons can then contact Patti Cook, who will liase with the Region to provide boxes to these students. If students sign up for boxes they are more likely to use them, and use them properly. It is our hope that through the continuation of this program over a number of semesters students will see through observing their neighbors that recycling is not difficult within the residences and will sign up to get their own box.

    Blue boxes are expensive and it is difficult to convince the Region of Waterloo that they should provide a new stock each term as boxes are removed by students during check outs. To eliminate the problem of lost and stolen blue boxes, it is suggested that the Villages add the blue boxes to the room inventory. There would then be a replacement fee if it was misplaced.

    2) Centralized Depots

    To create greater ease within the recycling process at the Villages we suggest that centralized depots be formed in each lounge and floor. Greater organization will encourage more individuals to recycle. The key is to make the process easy and requiring little extra work on the part of the student. With the development of the central depot system students will be able to take the lead in their own recycling, instead of requiring pick-up by the housemothers. This way recycling material would be easier to collect for maintenance personnel.

    3) Education of Housemothers

    Currently housemothers collect recyclables from the lounges. The problem is that, in many cases, they are unaware of what is recyclable or how different items should be treated. We recommend that housemothers be trained on recycling procedures and items which are included in the Regional program.

    4) Recycling Coordinator

    In order to achieve sustainablity of the recycling program in the Villages it is important that there is someone who is responsible for maintaining the system. In the past there has been a position on Village Council which was devoted to this effort-the recycling coordinator. Ideally, this person would coordinate recycling along with an environmental committee. With the combined efforts of the coordinator and committee, education can be increased on environmental issues within the Villages. This individual should also liase with Patti Cook on waste management issues, including recycling.

    5) Future Research

    Through our research we have discovered that there are a number of subject areas which should be targeted in other 285, 390's or 490's projects.

    Household Hazardous Wastes:

    The most prevalent area of hazardous wastes on campus is found in the residences. Future study could involve contacting the hazardous materials handling facility on campus to see which items are classified as hazardous. Then a plan could be developed for collection within the residences and safe disposal.

    Measurement of Success:

    We would encourage another group to perform a waste audit in the residences to see if our recycling education program has had an effect on waste generation and disposal. Replication of the 1994 audit of Village 2, East would allow comparisons to be drawn. Hopefully this type of study would identify areas in which our education plan was a success and others where it could be improved upon.

    Blue Box Expansion:

    We would like to see the expansion of the voluntary blue box program to include the church colleges. The Villages are not the only residences on campus. Other residences should be included to increase participation in recycling programs for all students.

    Conclusion

    At the beginning of our study, we acted on the assumption that educating students about recycling was not being pursued. Since then, we have learned that there are individuals on campus who spend a great deal of time and effort trying to educate all of the people associated with the University on any manner of environmental and waste disposal issues. We had to wonder then, why was it that we had not seen any of this education?

    One answer to this question lies with the contacts that these various individuals use. We are not the first people to suggest posting signs in the Villages about recycling on campus and in the residences. However, in the past this work has been left to the dons and other people who may have little interest in environmental issues; they have not necessarily been enthusiastic or well educated about waste diversion themselves. This has lead to a situation where the educators in the univeristy believe that the message is getting out while it's not, because those responsible for enacting the recommendations have failed to do so. We would like to think that by discovering and pointing out this missing link, we have made a minor contribution to the success of recycling in the future.

    We have been well recieved by the housing administration and feel that all have a genuine concern and interest in improving residence recycling. We hope that this time by pointing out specific problems and working on solutions it will make our reccommendations easy to implement.

    The system we have designed for the Villages is as simple as we could make it; we tried to create a situation for students and dons alike where minimum input on their part made a maximum impact. All relevant phone numbers, contact names, and information has been provided to the necessary people. Extra copies of signs, posters and instructions will be left with Patti Cook, who then has only to send out the needed materials, making her job easier as well.

    After reading the recommendations of previous 285 and 90's projects that deal with waste in the Villages, and after seeing how few of them had been acted upon, we concluded that a different approach would be necessary. Mere research is not enough; when a group is dealing with institutions, often the only effective way to make a difference is to do the needed work oneself. This has been a valuable learning experience for us, and we hope that the information we have gathered and the lessons we have learned will be of value to any students who follow us.

    Contacts

    References

    Pletsch, Mark. An Improved Recycling System for Residence. University of Waterloo. 1994.

    Robinson, John et al, "Defining a Sustainable Society: Values, Principles and Definitions", Alternatives, 17:2, July/August 1990, pg. 36-46.

    Smith, April A. Campus Ecology: A Guide to Assessing Environmental Quality and Creating Strategies for Change. Los Angeles: Living Planet Press. 1993.

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