Date of Thesis

Spring 4-16-2012

Thesis Type

Honors Thesis

Department

Environmental Studies

First Advisor

Peter Wilshusen

Abstract

This thesis examines three questions regarding the content of Bucknell University‟s waste stream and the contributors to campus recycling and solid waste disposal. The first asks, “What does Bucknell‟s waste stream consist of?” To answer this question, I designed a campus-wide waste audit procedure that sampled one dumpster from each of the eleven „activity‟ types on campus in order to better understand Bucknell‟s waste composition. The audit was implemented during the Fall semester of the 2011-2012 school year. The waste from each dumpster was sorted into several recyclable and non-recyclable categories and then weighed individually. Results showed the Bison and Carpenter Shop dumpsters to contain the highest percentage of divertible materials (through recycling and/or composting). When extrapolated, results also showed the Dining Services buildings and Facilities buildings to be the most waste dense in terms of pounds of waste generated per square foot. The Bison also generated the most overall waste by weight. The average composition of all dumpsters revealed that organic waste composed 24% of all waste, 23% was non-recyclable paper, and 20% was non-recyclable plastic. It will be important to move forward using these results to help create effective waste programs that target the appropriate areas of concern.

My second question asks, “What influences waste behavior to contribute to this „picture‟ of the waste stream?” To answer this question, I created a survey that was sent out to randomly selected sub-group of the university‟s three constituencies: students, faculty, and staff. The survey sought responses regarding each constituency‟s solid waste disposal and recycling behavior, attitudes toward recycling, and motivating factors for solid waste disposal behaviors across different sectors of the university. Using regression analysis, I found three statistically significant motivating factors that influence solid waste disposal behavior: knowledge and awareness, moral value, and social norms. I further examined how a person‟s characteristics associate to these motivating factors and found that one‟s position on campus proved a significant association. Consistently, faculty and staff were strongly influenced by the aforementioned motivating factors, while students‟ behavior was less influenced by them. This suggests that new waste programs should target students to help increase the influence of these motivators to improve the recycling rate and lower overall solid waste disposal on campus.

After making overall conclusions regarding the waste audit and survey, I ask my third question, which inquires, “What actions can Bucknell take to increase recycling rates and decrease solid waste generation?” Bucknell currently features several recycling and waste minimization programs on campus. However, using results from the waste audit and campus survey, we can better understand what are the issues of the waste stream, how do we go about addressing these issues, and who needs to be addressed. I propose several suggestions for projects that future students may take on for summer or thesis research. Suggestions include targeting the appropriate categories of waste that occur most frequently in the waste stream, as well as the building types that have the highest waste density and potential recovery rates. Additionally, certain groups on campus should be targeted more directly than others, namely the student body, which demonstrates the lowest influence by motivators of recycling and waste behavior. Several variables were identified as significant motivators of waste and recycling behavior, and could be used as program tactics to encourage more effective behavior.

Share

COinS