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Convenience improves composting and recycling rates in high-density residential buildings

DiGiacomo, Alessandra, Wu, David W.-L., Lenkic, Peter, Fraser, Bud, Zhao, Jiaying, Kingstone, Alan
Journal of environmental planning and management 2018 v.61 no.2 pp. 309-331
composting, containers, environmental policy, field experimentation, landfills, paper, pollution, recycling, residential housing, solid wastes
Increasing volumes of solid waste, implicated in environmental pollution and health problems, are central to the current environmental crisis. In two randomized field experiments, we demonstrate that convenience dramatically boosts recycling and composting rates in multi-family dwellings and university residences. When compost bins were placed on each floor in a multi-family residence, instead of on the ground floor, composting rates increased by 70%, diverting 27 kilograms of compost from the landfill per unit per year. When recycling stations were placed just meters from suites in student residences, instead of in the basement, recycling increased by 147% (container), and 137% (paper), and composting increased by 139%, diverting 23, 22, and 14 kilograms of containers, paper, and compost, respectively, from the landfill per person per year. Simply making recycling and composting convenient can significantly increase waste diversion, and as such this single intervention has important implications for waste management and environmental policy.