Social Factors Leading to Improper Waste Disposal in the Killam Library at Dalhousie University and the Role of Labels and Signs in Improving Waste Diversion
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The purpose of this study is to advance the Dalhousie University sustainability initiative by identifying significant avenues for improvement in waste management through conducting research in the Killam Library. The study characterizes key challenges for increasing waste diversion rates in the Killam Library, while specifically addressing influential social factors leading to improper waste disposal. Furthermore, the study sought to address the role of four-bin waste disposal station (Paper, recyclables, organics and garbage) labels and signs in improving waste diversion rates. The study supplements existing research previously conducted in the Killam Library, and further advances knowledge concerning the current waste management practices at the Killam and more broadly at Dalhousie University. The results of this study provide recommendations for improvement in waste management at the Killam Library, and for all buildings on the Dalhousie campus, and other institutions wishing to improve waste diversion rates. A survey was distributed to twenty individuals on each of the five floors in the Killam Library to identify key social factors leading to improper waste disposal in the four-bin waste system. The completion of the survey indicated that most individuals are very confident or somewhat confident when disposing of waste, however waste diversion rates remain relatively low. Survey applicants frequently responded that inconvenience, lack of labels and signs, carelessness, and the largest response being, uncertainty of how and where to dispose of waste, were the greatest obstacles to proper waste disposal. In addition, two waste audits were conducted. The first waste audit assessed the current waste disposal rate which was followed by the placement of educational signs above the four-bin stations. The aim of the second waste audit was to analyze the effectiveness of additional labels and signs in improving waste diversion. The results from the waste audits clearly demonstrate a significant improvement following the placement of labels and signs with a 19.34% increase in waste diversion. The waste audits further demonstrated that coffee cups, tea bags, granola wrappers, liquid waste, aluminum, milk containers, wax paper, and water bottles are problematic items in regards to improving waste diversion. 3 Recommendations and solutions to improve waste diversion at the Killam Library include designing original posters addressing the problematic items listed above with creative pictures and informative labeling, and educational program initiatives, such as waste resource educational officers directing presentations during orientation week for new students at Dalhousie University. Furthermore, increasing awareness of proper waste disposal by making the Dalhousie Guide to Materials Management more accessible around campus and conducting activities for students and staff related to proper waste diversion would be effective in improving waste diversion rates (Appendix 3). Influencing Dalhousie University to have standardized coffee cups on campus, and working to influence businesses, such as Tim Horton’s to transition to standardized cups is also a worthwhile initiative. Future research concerning the placement of labels and signs around the four-bin waste system, the placement of the four-bin waste system themselves, liquid waste solutions and the feasibility of providing educational programmes and activities on campus would be beneficial to this field. In addition, a longitudinal study concerning social factors, and individual behaviour regarding proper waste disposal, through focus groups and interviews would be significantly beneficial.