Student attitudes and behaviours towards recycling and waste

23rd September 2013 Posted by

It’s that time of year when thousands of young people are leaving home and finding their feet at university.

When it comes to environmental issues, students can sometimes get a bad press. If I’m honest, I think I spent more time worrying about how many friends I’d made rather than how or where I could recycle my cans. And it’s important to remember that when we are looking at what motivates students to do the right thing.

Quite simply, we need to make recycling as easy and intuitive as possible. Earlier this year, SITA UK commissioned a piece of research with the NUS looking at students’ attitudes to recycling. The views of thousands of students were canvassed and the results have enabled us to make recommendations to help increase recycling rates at universities.

Here are some of the key points from our findings:

  • Worst offenders for not recycling are first year students living in halls (only around 55 per cent say they recycle if it takes extra effort, and only 34 per cent say they recycle everything that can be recycled).
  • Almost half of students living off campus are unfamiliar with the recycling system on campus (47 per cent), and over a quarter of those living on campus also admit to being unfamiliar with the system.
  • Only one third of students feel that on-campus recycling systems are convenient and easy to use.
  • Main improvements suggested by students to help them recycle more are more bins, with more capacity and in more convenient places.
  • And half of all students say they do not remember receiving any information about recycling, either on campus or in their term time accommodation.

Recycling may always be a struggle with an audience that’s got lots going on. But having this insight – and understanding where students are coming from – is helping us to make subtle changes that could make a big difference in the long run.

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