The Zero Waste Pauley team tackles waste during the annual Dance Marathon event

By Talia Young

What is Dance Marathon you ask? Dance Marathon is a philanthropic event put on by the Pediatric Aids Coalition where hundreds of students pledge to fight against aids. They literally stand up to pediatric aids by staying on their feet for 26 consecutive hours and raise money by having family and friends donate to the cause.

This year, Dance Marathon was held in Pauley Pavilion for the first time. Since our team’s goal is to make Pauley a zero waste facility, we thought it would be a good idea to use the event to test out how people throw away their trash. We collectively decided that this event would be a great opportunity to test the effectiveness of signage on recycle, compost, and trash bins. Over 1200 students were scheduled to attend this event and what better way to test signage than on fellow UCLA students. We brainstormed ideas for our signs and met with the UCLA Recreation Marking team to have them help us create the signs.

Our strategy was to audit the dinner mealtime during Dance Marathon to collect data on signage effectiveness. The mealtime was 4:30-9 PM and was divided into five meal shifts within that time. Each shift had approximately the same number of students. In order to prepare for this audit, we set up 6 “trash islands” around the designated eating area that consisted of a recycle, compost, and trash bin side-by-side. Each bin had the word “recycle”, “compost”, or “trash” on the bin but nothing else. We decided that the first shift would not have signs on the recycle, compost, and trash bins so that it would be our control. Shifts two through five would have signs (large posters) attached to the bins with pictures and descriptions of what goes in each bin. After each shift, we would weigh and record the amount of waste in each bin.

Here are the bins with the posters.

Here are the bins with the posters.

Our goal was to see how much of an effect the signs had on the students at Dance Marathon. Did they have any effect? Did people actually pay attention to the signs? Did people attempt to sort their waste properly? These were some of the questions we aimed to answer with this audit. We hoped to see that there was more waste in the compost and recycling bins in shifts 2-5 than there was in shift 1. In addition to using this event as an experiment, we also wanted to use it as an educational opportunity. Hopefully, people learned what can or cannot be thrown away in each bin.

While our experiment went smoothly, we still have to analyze the data. From a visual standpoint, we believe that the signs were effective but next week we should have the actual numbers that hopefully back up our prediction. Overall, this was a successful event as we had been planning it with the Dance Marathon committee since last quarter and were excited to finally run the audit.

The Zero Waste Pauley Team after Dance Marathon 2014.

The Zero Waste Pauley Team after Dance Marathon 2014.