In January, we, The Environmental Student Leaders Action Network (ESLAN) team at Augsburg College, got the ball rolling on a behavior change project on campus. Our project has been to recycle personal care and oral care products via the TerraCycle company, an innovative and renowned company that recycles hard-to-recycle waste. We’re in April now and we have news to share with you!
We placed bins in each of the nine resident bathrooms of Urness Hall, where first-year students reside. Before starting to recycle, we had students take pre-surveys about their awareness and actions toward recycling, especially hard-to-recycle waste. Students also took post-surveys. Figure 1 illustrates the comparison between the pre- and post-surveys. The results show that students were recycling more after taking part in the TerraCycle project for two months.
Figure 1. A) Pre-survey results for Urness Hall residents. B) Post-survey results for Urness Hall residents.
Students were incentivized to recycle by promising a pizza party for the residence floor that collected the most amount of products by weight. The students ended up collecting 28.06 lbs in items. After sorting (Figure 2 shows the team having fun sorting), we found that 18.25 lbs of the items could be recycled in traditional recycling bins. Therefore, 9.81 lbs of the items could be sent to TerraCycle; 7.11 lbs were from personal care and 2.7 lbs were from oral care. Fig 2. The ESLAN team sorting out the recycling items.
There was also a community bin, a bin for all commuters and folks not living in Urness Hall, placed in the Christensen Center. The bin did not fare well. The bin was mistaken for a garbage bin and folks were not dropping off too many products. The lack of items could have been due to poor advertisement about its location when it was moved from one place in Christensen to a different location in the same building (moved after one week), as well as people feeling insecure about dropping off personal care products in a public space. As said before, we did not have much luck with the community bin.
With all of our efforts, we estimate reaching 2,000 students. By reaching we mean that students had access to the project and details at the very least. We used various modes of communication. We posted images of people using the TerraCycle bins on Instagram. We tabled in the Christensen Center. We wrote a piece about our project for the Echo newspaper. We used every communication tool available to us to spread the word.
Moving forward, there is a lot for our team to think about. We are talking about forming a formal environmental student group on campus. We want to see if we can keep the TerraCycle program going and devise new strategies for creating success with the community bin. There is a lot floating around, so stay tuned. If you have any questions, comments, or concerns, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.