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Recycling is a vital step in working towards a future with less waste, pollution, and protection of key species. Plastic is non-biodegradable and an increasing amount of it is ending up in our oceans in the form of tiny pieces, referred to as micro-plastic. For those enjoy eating fish, there can be a hidden cost to the pollution of plastic. Fish consume the plastic, which in turn ends up on our dinner plates, affecting our overall health. The consequences are not only limited to the environment, or human being’s health, but also negatively impact our economy.
According to Doug Woodring, founder of Ocean Recovery Alliance, the annual cost to the US is 13 billion dollars.
He went on to say, “the $13 billion estimate is conservative, and it depends how wide-ranging you want to incorporate the externalities of waste,” which can include effects on human health, tourism, greenhouse gases, and wildlife. Now, on a very specific local level, I wanted to take a look at UMSL, where trash cans on campus far outnumber recycling bins.
Of course, simply having recycling bins on campus does not guarantee that students will use them. For example, should you look inside any random trash can on school grounds, you’re almost certain to come across plastic bottles. For this survey, I would like to format a campus-wide questionnaire, which would look at how many students recycle both at home and/or at school, as well as focusing on factors that influence students’ behavioral intention to recycle.
The variables I’ve identified include perceived moral obligation, past behavior, knowledge and inconvenience. For this survey, I would like to create a questionnaire that would be distributed to the entirety of the student population at UMSL, via the student email system, which should help to ensure generalizability. According to the UMSL statistics, there were 16,715 students enrolled in 2017, which is the most recent analysis available. Ideally, I would need between 11,000-12,000 students to complete the questionnaire to avoid nonresponse bias. The survey would be cross-sectional because that would be more effective to measure the current student population on campus. Therefore, the main research question is, to what extent is UMSL students’ behavioral intention to recycle influenced by their attitude to recycling, subjective norms, perceived moral obligations, past behaviors, knowledge and inconvenience?
Knowledge about students’ recycling behavior can be an important tool for those of whom are responsible for implementing recycling schemes on campus. Furthermore, the gained knowledge from the proposed survey could help to implement specific measures to increase recycling participation on campus. Understanding students’ past behaviors related to recycling can help determine who amongst the responders will likely be participating in current or future recycling. As Fishbein states “the more one knows about the factors that underlie the performance (or nonperformance) of any given behavior, the more likely it is that one can design a successful intervention to change or reinforce that behavior.” (Fishbein, 2008, p.834). So, including questions about student’s participation in recycling before coming to UMSL is important to the study.
In order to define recycling behavior, we look at Stern’s article about “significant environmental behavior” (2000). Stern defines significant environmental behavior primarily as acts that change or alter resources from the environment or that impact the “dynamics of the ecosystem” in general (2000). In a second definition Stern incorporates the individual’s desire to protect the environment with his behavior, which reads as follows “behavior that is undertaken to change (normally to benefit) the environment” (Stern, 2000). In order to discover whether people are even in interested in recycling, I think it would be prudent to include in the survey, questions that determine whether or not students are interested/involved in actions that benefit the environment.
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