Thursday, March 07, 2019

UIS study finds “bedazzled” recycling bins don’t increase recycling behavior on campus

UIS students Caleb Froidcoeur and Marissa Jones stand next to a "bedazzled" recycling container used in the study.
A recent study conducted by students and faculty at the University of Illinois Springfield has found that “bedazzled” or more aesthetically pleasing recycling bins did not increase recycling behavior on the Springfield campus.

The waste management study, funded by a $3,654 PepsiCo Recycling grant, was conducted from October 1 to November 16, 2018. The researchers randomly deployed both “bedazzled” recycling bins featuring colorful nature photos with phrases, such as “thanks for pitching in,” on them and traditional blue recycling bins in main campus buildings to test their hypothesis.

“The idea for the study was built on research that found nature scenes in product marketing create a positive emotional response for consumers who are less concerned about environmental issues,” said Carolee Rigsbee, UIS assistant professor of management. “We thought positive emotions from viewing nature scenes would also increase recycling behavior, but we did not find this outcome using the bedazzled containers on the UIS campus.”

The 20 “bedazzled” recycling bins and 20 standard blue recycling bins purchased by the PepsiCo Recycling grant will still be put to good use on campus. The UIS Department of Residence Life will be deploying the recycling containers in residence halls and near townhouses/apartments to increase recycling convenience.

“Education will be a big part of this effort to increase recycling on campus,” said Marissa Jones, a UIS environmental studies major who helped conduct the study. “We’ll be working with RAs and the Residence Life leadership team during upcoming training sessions. The idea will be for them to spread the word to students and become champions for campus recycling.”

Rigsbee points out that the collaboration between students and faculty was an important part of the research study. UIS faculty members Jorge Villegas, interim associate dean of the College of Business and Administration, and Megan Styles, assistant professor of environmental studies also helped with the study.

“Even though the bedazzled bins did not prove effective, we were able to identify common forms of contamination in our recycling bins, and we're designing an education program to help eliminate confusion about these items,” said Styles. “We also found that our campus is good about recycling paper, but we really need to improve when it comes to plastics and metals.”

In addition to the new recycling bins in campus housing, the student-led UIS Green Fee Committee has recently implemented a number of sustainability initiatives on campus including low emission vehicle (LEV) parking spaces, reusable water bottle refilling stations, a sustainable garden for Cox Daycare Children Center, a bicycle repair station located under the overhang at south entrance of PAC and added nine new bikes to UIS Campus Recreation’s bike rental program.

“Sustainability on campus is important to me because we are facing a time in which we must overcome climate change,” said Caleb Froidcoeur, a UIS environmental studies major who helped conduct the study. “UIS needs to participate in the global movement towards more sustainable practices because we aren’t just saving the Earth. We are saving our species from extinction.”

The research project, along with other student projects, will be presented at UIS’ annual Student Technology, Arts, and Research Symposium being held April 17 to 19.

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