Sustainability on campus, as well as out in the working world, is of key importance to Harper. With our Sustainable Harper programme constantly working to improve our carbon footprint, it's great to see this passion shared with our students.
International BSc (Hons) Agri-food Marketing and Supply Chain Management student Daryl Ni shared his unique approach to studying recycling, having spent two years at Huazhong Agriculture University, China, before joining us at Harper. In his blog, he shares how he envisions new ways to help universities communicate the importance of reusing products:
This year, I have studied a module called Consumer Behaviour. Tasked with increasing consumer awareness toward environmental sustainability, I was asked to choose a sustainable product or service and do some research to help certain organisations understand consumers and better deliver this product or service.
Based on my life experience in both China and UK, I chose ‘recycling’ as my research subject without too much hesitation. Specifically, my topic was about ‘attitudes and behaviours towards on-campus recycling for Chinese students in UK universities’, which has a cross-national flavour and had been little researched before.
The reason I selected this topic is what I know about both countries’ university recycling systems. British universities are more mature in recycling, with lots of campuses having waste sorting programmes, and there are seven British universities ranking in the top ten of university recycling and sustainability in the world. On the other hand, Chinese universities rarely implement recycling practices, with different kinds of rubbish usually being mixed together. I feel that understanding Chinese students’ recycling attitudes and behaviours is important for UK universities to successfully launch recycling programs and achieve the goal of sustainability, as Chinese students represent the majority of international students enrolling in British universities (106,530 in 2017-2018). So, the results of my research might help UK universities’ recycling activities.
When I was doing my research, I focused on Chinese students in Harper Adams University, due to limited resources and time, choosing one male and one female student.
The results show that the female respondent has wider knowledge, more positive attitudes and stronger intention towards recycling than the male respondent. However, both respondents still have limited recycling behaviours, as they are less likely to recycle outside the accommodation and the most commonly recycled wastes are only the four major wastes: plastic, paper, cardboard and can.
As for factors influencing recycling behaviours, results show some common factors influencing both respondents. For example, they are both affected by external personal influences like housemates and cleaners, and both mentioned inconvenience and the lack of knowledge as two barriers to recycling. There are also factors specifically influencing both respondents.
Specifically, the female respondent’s pursuit of accommodation cleanliness and altruism motivates her to recycle, while the male respondent’s doubt towards Harper’s recycling system limits his recycling practices.
Based on the findings above, I want to share some of my ideas and suggestions which may help Facilities Department in UK universities establish better recycling systems:
Recycling courses during the induction week
Chinese students may find it hard to adapt to UK recycling scheme due to the lack of recycling knowledge and skills, and lots of students might be not aware of recycling and unconsciously maintain the old waste-sorting habits. Therefore, during induction, teachers could highlight the importance of recycling and cover some basic recycling knowledge and skills.
Posters, posted in halls or public places, with bright colours and attractive images can provide recycling information and the webpage-links of university recycling programmes, attracting student’s attention and arousing interest.
My current study perhaps reflects significant herd mentality among Chinese students. Therefore, universities can delegate one student representative for each accommodation block who will remind others to recycle and teach others recycling skills. Such a practice might promote recycling and thus influence students’ decision-making.
Although recycling is not like products or services which could be purchased, each university could still design their own logo about recycling or own recycling bins with attractive appearances. This tactic may produce a branding effect, which means every time students see the logo/bins they are inspired to recycle.
Change the design of facilities
Changing the way of presenting recycling bins may reduce students’ mistrust towards university recycling system. To tackle this, I suggest universities set up waste collection points on campus, with different large recycling bins put together rather than a single large bin. Also, four different colours of waste bags should be designed to match different waste types, perhaps making it easier to categorise.
Improved recycling convenience might increase recycling rate among students as they do not need to spend so much time or effort. Particularly, universities should provide more recycling bins for wastes other than the four basic wastes. Additionally, more recycling bins should be put in busy places, for example the main streets and library.
Finally, I want to share my feelings towards this module in my learning journey. I really appreciate that the module leader, Mary Munley, provided a well-designed learning experience for us. Via this module, we can not only learn about consumer behaviour theories, but also put them into practice. Particularly, the task of this module is like a mini-dissertation, as during the process of the qualitative research, we got familiar with the research content structure - particularly the methodology and data analysis parts - and how to correctly implement interviews without too much bias. So, thanks to this module I became more confident in my final year project!
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