By George Yang- University Apartments
A few weeks ago, we sent out a survey to the graduate students who live in University Village (UV) through their weekly newsletter. The survey consisted of 11 questions about the residents’ recycling knowledge and habits, as well as their assessment of the recycling program at UV. Excluding the last open-ended question about their thoughts on the recycling at UV (optional to answer), the entire survey takes no less than three minutes to finish. We were glad to see a total of 164 responses, of which 128 included the answer for the open-ended question (including two invalid answers, a “Yes” and a “No”). In all, the response rate was higher than we expected and we were able to gather some valuable information from the survey. I will highlight some of the key findings from this survey.
Although there is still some room for improvements, residents are generally well informed about recycling. All 164 surveyed individuals knew that plastic bottles are recyclable, and over 95% correctly picked mixed papers, cardboard and glass. Since those four items are in fact among the most common household recyclable materials, the residents demonstrated great knowledge about recycling. However, people do have some misconceptions. The majority of people thought that soda cups (53%) are recyclable while plastic straws (64%) are not. And most alarmingly, 12 people believed that food waste is recyclable! People had a good grasp of the major types of recyclable wastes even though they might put non-recyclables into to the blue bins from time to time. In this case, I think that, with signs, door hangers, and e-mails all containing educational information about recycling, all of our conditions targeted this problem effectively.
The survey also showed that people are not only relatively knowledgeable about recycling, they are also satisfied with the current recycling programs even though they are not recycling well enough. Only 7.9% of the people think that their knowledge of recycling is below average and 14.7% think it is difficult for them to recycle at UV. However, over 70% of people recycle less than 50% of their waste while the expected diversion rate calculated from their responses is only 40.4%, which is lower than the actual diversion rate at UV.
We learned from our stakeholder, Ken, that the residents at UV came from various backgrounds, so we thought it would be helpful to learn more about the demographics of the community. 83.5% of the surveyed individuals were the only UCLA student in the household and they lived with of 1.52 non-UCLA family members on average. Nevertheless, contrary to what we thought, 90.1% of the surveyed individuals actually included English as the language that they speak at home. We think that this mismatch in demographics might be a threat due to non-response bias. Those residents whose first language is English (the survey is in English) might be more likely to do the survey and they might have disproportionately represented US students compared to international students in the community. Therefore, the sample might not be representative of an average individual’s response in this community.
In conclusion, despite the possible statistical bias in the survey, our group did get some optimistic results about this community. The residents at UV expressed interests in improved recycling program and, now with the residents on board, we are confident that we can achieve our goal by the end of the project!