UBC Undergraduate Research

Zero waste campus project Fazel, Yasaman; Lewis, Daniel; Lim, Zhu An; Luo, Amy; Yuen, May


Waste (i.e. paper, plastic, glass, metal, or food waste products) diversion has been a key focus for reducing the overall waste disposal as part of the Zero Waste Action Plan (2014). This requires efforts in both education and infrastructure. This research is interested in the infrastructure (i.e. locations of recycling stations) of waste sorting in the University of British Columbia (UBC) Vancouver campus, and how it may affect the rates of waste diversion and recycling. Currently, UBC has 117 traditional garbage bins that do not have any recycling option. This means the waste collected from these bins will not be recycled and reused for other purposes. Our client, Bud Fraser, plans to replace existing traditional garbage bins with new (Big Belly) recycling stations across the campus so the waste can be recycled properly. In turn, we aim to create a zero waste community. Due to the high costs of these recycling stations, it is essential to first determine the optimal locations for the installation of new recycling stations on campus, and to ensure that they are beneficial to the sustainability movement. This study evaluates potential locations using a set of criteria to identify suitable outdoor areas on campus. The criteria includes outdoor population density, waste generation (including garbage, recyclables and litter), proximity to food outlets, popular leisure and social gathering areas, frequently passed locations by students, and the recommendations by students and waste management staff. The six criteria were formulated based on the findings from previous studies (Wight et al. 2013, O’Connor et al. 2010, Clay, 2005) that look at potential factors that affect recycling. We also incorporated the advice from UBC’s Social Ecological Economic Development Studies (SEEDS), specifically Bud Fraser’s advice. Primary data was gathered through appropriate research strategies such as mixed-mode survey, semi-structured interviews, and participant observation to analyze individual criteria. To determine areas with high traffic, the participant observation method was used to evaluate the population and crowd flow of outdoor spaces (i.e. major roads and pathways), and to locate areas adjacent to food outlets. From the mixed-mode survey method, we determined areas that students frequently pass by and gather during their leisure time. The survey also allowed the participants (i.e. students) to take part in recommending where future recycling bins should be located. Furthermore, through the surveys we assembled knowledge about the students’ perspectives and habits on recycling. By utilizing semi-structured interviews with UBC Waste Management staff, we were able to determine areas with a high proportion of litter and garbage disposal. Using Geographic Information System (GIS) analysis, we combined and analysed the data collected to produced a map that ranked our recommended bin locations into three categories: High priority areas, medium priority areas, and low priority areas (Appendix 1). The high priority areas are locations that encompass most of the criteria (i.e. five or six) in our list, and are important areas for recycling bins. The medium and low priority areas encompass fewer criterions in our list, but are potential locations for new recycling bins nonetheless. In conclusion, our team proposes to add fourteen recycling stations across campus to the existing nine recycling bins. The addition of these recycling stations will presumably contribute to the waste diversion efforts on campus. 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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