Why sorting your trash might still be impossible, even if you're the greenest person at UCLA.

By Sarah Vetter

As we conducted our waste study in the North Campus area, some troubling but opportune situations met our eyes. In Macgowan Hall and Lu Valle Commons, we noticed decay of the removable waste lids. Each Victor Stanley, Inc. waste receptacle has a lid that says either 'Trash' or 'Recycling'. We were finding bins with not only the lids switched around but also signage on the lids faded and eroded to the point of illegibility. I found myself surveying what I thought was a recycling bin and had to look twice to see if it was actually a bin for trash.

A typical Victor Stanley, Inc. waste receptacle on UCLA's North Campus.

A typical Victor Stanley, Inc. waste receptacle on UCLA's North Campus.

Apparently though, even when the lid covers are clear and new, people still have trouble figuring out what to put in what. On one of my collecting rounds in the Sculpture Garden, I noticed a man hesitate at the bins, trying to dispose of a plastic cup.

After directing him to the recycling, I asked him what had caused his hesitation. I was surprised to learn that he felt the bins were difficult to distinguish between. He said the colors were not noticeable, but rather when one passes by, the bins appear alike. And who wants to pause to look at a trash bin?  He suggested, “perhaps the signs delineating each bin could be more upfront?”

Later that week, before our team meeting, I was telling a friend about our project to improve recycling and disposal practices on campus. She had questions and also volunteered some suggestions of her own:

“If candy wrappers can’t be recycled, why would they go in the recycling bin (i.e. anything without food waste)?"

"There are too many words on the descriptions, maybe we can put visuals instead?”

We look forward to the next steps of our project, largely based on what we find through this period of data collection on North Campus. With further input from our fellow students as well as our own experiences, we will make recommendations to our stakeholder and possibly experiment with new signage to supplement the deteriorated ones we’ve found in Macgowan Hall.