This Project was done in collaboration with Julie Rosenbach, the Bates College Sustainability Manager. The focus was on determining how to best increase recycling rates on campus through determining what current barriers and norms that limit the amount of recycling at Bates exist. The recycling rate at Bates is currently around 30-40% according to the data provided by Julie. The goal is to get this rate up to 50% over the next few years. The overall goal of our project was to research barriers to improving our recycling rate and recommend strategies to remove these barriers.
The study of social norms is one critical aspect of this study. Social norms are defined as by Ann Carlson as “non-legal rules or obligations that certain individuals feel compelled to follow despite the lack of formal legal sanctions, whether because defiance would subject them to sanctions from others or because they would feel guilty for failing to conform to the norm” (Carlson, 2001, p. 1238). Therefore, the social norms could influence the Bates community’s recycling habits because they feel obligated to recycle more or will feel guilty if they do not. Our project studies the social norms and barriers that are already in place at Bates.
One problem Bates faces right now is the miscommunication between facilities and the Sustainability Office as to where the recycling goes and how much of each relevant material gets recycled. In addition, there is not much information regarding what is being measured and how accurate these measurements are. The information that has been recorded in the past is not consistent and does not accurately reflect Bates’ recycling rate. Therefore, the current recycling rate is a tentative percentage because there is no concrete information on recycling at Bates. For this reason, one of the long-term goals is to create a better, more precise system for facilities to accurately and efficiently record data on the amount of trash and recycling produced by Bates.
Another problem at Bates is that there is little to no uniformity between the trash and recycling bins around campus (See Appendix A for photos). During our discussion with representatives from other NESCAC schools, we found that the common denominator in starting to improve recycling rates was to distribute the same style, color, and size bins around campus.
The primary results of this project indicate that there needs to be a unified recycling system at Bates. In addition, there needs to be more education about what can be recycled. This will require more effective outreach to ensure that all the students are informed.
The next steps for this project would be to create a better platform of communication between facilities and the Sustainability Office to ensure both groups are on the same page, to make sure all the bins around campus are uniform in size and color, and to create a system where social norms are catered towards Bates students wanting to recycle.
Haymes, Ali; Brill, Nicki; and Merrill, George, "Changing the Face of Recycling at Bates College through the Analysis of a Survey Open to Bates Students and Determining the Barriers of Recyclin" (2014). Community Engaged Research Reports. 11.