UBC Graduate Research

Prompts to improve post-consumer waste composting behaviors in the SUB Chiykowski, Valerie; Chendurnathan, Guhan; Lee, Jun Sian; Daniel, Lius


The Alma Mater Society (AMS) of the University of British Columbia (UBC) is striving to be leaders in campus sustainability by providing resources for student-run sustainability projects and creating in-house initiatives. A current focus is providing new sustainability features, such as on-site composting for new rooftop gardens, in the new Student Union Building (SUB). However, a significant barrier to this project is the level of contamination, in the form of non-compostable waste and materials, within the post-consumer organics bins in the SUB. The goal of this project is to increase the weight (wt) of compostable waste collected in the compost receptacle opposite ‘Pie R Squared’ in whilst simultaneously reducing the % wt contamination. This was achieved by designing visual behavioural prompts in the form of a large poster and small table toppers. Thorough analysis of literature research on visual prompts led to a design focused on clarity of information, proximity to composting receptacle and positive tone. The contamination after installation of the prompts was compared against baseline data and it has been concluded that both the % wt. contamination and % contamination level were decreased post-intervention. However, the weight of compostable has decreased post-intervention as well. Other compounding factors should be considered when assessing the data, including the sustainability fair occurring during baseline data collection and improvement of old bins with more user-friendly containers post-intervention. Suggestions for further efforts to improve the quality of compost involve the construction and installation of an audio prompt system based on infrared sensor technology. The infrared sensor would measure the humidity of the waste as a reflection of the content of compostable food waste in the bin. An audio message would play, thanking students who compost their organic material, as positive reinforcement for their good behaviour. Disclaimer: “UBC SEEDS provides students with the opportunity to share the findings of their studies, as well as their opinions, conclusions and recommendations with the UBC community. The reader should bear in mind that this is a student project/report and is not an official document of UBC. Furthermore readers should bear in mind that these reports may not reflect the current status of activities at UBC. We urge you to contact the research persons mentioned in a report or the SEEDS Coordinator about the current status of the subject matter of a project/report.”

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