Research findings that could help you increase recycling rates on campus

SUEZ recycling and recovery UK

The start of the academic year is filled with excitement and energy, but for first year students it is also a time of information overload. Communicating with an audience inundated with new information can be challenging and key messages that you have to share with your staff and students can be lost.

The National Union of Students (NUS), research findings, published in a report, ‘Lifting the Lid: Students attitudes and behaviours towards recycling and waste,’ commissioned by SUEZ recycling and recovery UK, unveiled some interesting truths about recycling in higher education facilities. The report revealed that effective communication could have a big impact on recycling levels amongst students, suggesting that rethinking your communication strategy could increase recycling rates of your university or college

According to the study, almost 10 per cent of students do not recycle at all, and around half of these non-recyclers are first year students. The worst offenders for not recycling are ‘freshers’ living in halls. Half of the survey respondents did not recall receiving information about recycling, either on campus or in their term-time accommodation since joining university. This suggests that there is an opportunity for higher education institutions to increase and improve their recycling related communication. For example, separating recycling communication from other communication done at the start of an academic year could help increase its impact.

The report shows that there is a clear need for concentrated efforts on recycling communication, as first year students and those living in halls of residences are more likely to need additional support to help them shift their attitudes towards recycling and waste. Over a quarter of respondents living in university-owned halls of residences were not aware of the recycling collection from their term-time accommodation. Once again we can see a relationship between choosing the right moments to communicate important information, and its impact.

Starting university can be seen as a key moment of change in an individual’s life, often involving moving away from home for the first time. Research suggests that these ‘moments of change’ are significant opportunities for influencing behaviour. During their time in higher education, young people begin to forge independent identities and develop the competencies and skills that will guide them through later life.

NUS’s survey group, comprising more than 2,500 students, identified that the biggest barriers to recycling are a lack of awareness about recycling collection and a perception that no one else in their accommodation recycles.

In light of this, it is equally important to ensure communication is done through students’ preferred channels. Respondents reported a preference for online communication, such as emails from their university (25.5 per cent). However, recall of ‘physical’ communication was greater, with 28.8 per cent recalling posters by their university on recycling.

SUEZ recycling and recovery UK supplies recycling and waste services to several universities and colleges throughout the UK, working closely with its partners to develop efficient best practices for recycling and refuse collection.

If you would like to find out more about SUEZ recycling and recovery UK or get hold of a copy of the report please visit our website.