First Steps

By Annie Cheng- University Apartments

Since meeting with our stakeholder, Assistant Director of the University Apartments Ken MacKenzie, two weeks ago, we have narrowed down our ideas to a concrete project—increasing the percentage of waste diverted toward recycling in the University Village apartments. The University Village, which houses mainly graduate students and their families, is a sprawl of apartment complexes (pictured above) along both sides of the 405 freeway, on Sawtelle Boulevard and Sepulveda Boulevard. This type of housing comes with both advantages and disadvantages in terms of sustainability. On one hand, data collection and outreach are relatively easy. On the other hand, waste, much of it recyclable, goes down the garbage chute—out of sight, out of mind. Currently, the recycling diversion rate at the University Village hovers around 40%. Because most of the complexes do not have recycling chutes, residents must carry their recyclables downstairs to a large recycling container. Sending waste down the garbage chute seems much more convenient in comparison. How can we communicate the importance of recycling and convince residents that the extra steps are worth it?

We spent the last week looking up past projects on this topic. At Boston University, Trash Buddies, 2-in-1 recycling bins with a small trash receptacle inside, save space and facilitate mindfulness when disposing of waste. Using informational door hangers carrying various different combinations of messages, Professor Katherine White of the University of British Columbia ran several studies on how to best encourage recycling. It turns out that message framing is very important. The message must be easy to understand—this translates to the target population as easy to do. To galvanize immediate action, it is best to pair information on negative consequences of not recycling with concrete instructions on how to mitigate the problem. For our project, we hope to look at and compare the effects of methods such as using informational door hangers, providing recycling bins, and sending informational emails. Eventually, we hope to implement the best combination of methods on a larger scale.

In the upcoming week, we will be touring the University Village Apartments and getting a better sense of how we are going to conduct our research!  

Somethings to think about in the meantime:

  • The variety of recyclable materials has increased vastly due to improvements in technology.
  • How much do you know about recycling today?
  • Do you know exactly which items you can recycle and which you cannot, or have you actually been throwing away items that are now recyclable?

Check out this website!