Recycling Study in ES 1 and 2: An Evaluation of Contamination and Litter Problems

by: Craig Fisher, Kent Keeler, Cheralynne Kennedy, Melissa Kovacs, Rebecca Pollock and David White

Course: ERS 285, 1998
Supervisor: James Kay


Problems of contamination and litter undermine sustainability because, associated with each scenario there are greater amounts of landfill waste and greater costs to the University of Waterloo. Until recycling facilities are properly used and problems are reduced, there is value in identifying the roots of such problems. Examining the attitudes behind improper recycling behaviour may provide reasons for the two problems, while pointing to some possible solutions.

The study of recycling contamination (wrong materials in the recycling bins) and litter (recyclable materials left around and thrown in the garbage) in Environmental Studies buildings 1 and 2 examined how severe each of these problems were. Based on three levels of analysis, (through data collection for both contamination and litter, and a survey) the study concluded that litter is a significant problem and that contamination, although present at low levels does not threaten the sustainability of the system. A survey, designed to measure patterns of behaviour and common attitudes of ES 1 and 2 students, staff and faculty, reported the following: the most common reason for contamination or litter was the inconvenience of recycling, while more than half the respondents desired a greater number of recycling locations. Overall the majority stated their willingness to change poor recycling behaviours when made aware of recycling problems.

This type of shift in the operation of UW's waste system, could allow for the achievement of Watgreen/Federation of Students Environmental Commission's main goals: improving the quality of our environment, while decreasing the overall operating cost of the University. Improved recycling and awareness also move people towards a broader conciousness that paves the way to realizing visions of sustainability. The study of contamination and litter in Environmental Studies 1 and 2 provides people with information about the current operation of the system as well as makes recommendations for improving the system.

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Last updated: April 23, 1998 plc