UH Manoa study shows recycle bins at a work site significantly boosts recycling rate

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Posted: Nov 5, 2007

It is possible to significantly boost the recycling rate and significantly reduce the discard rate by focusing on workplace recycling programs, according to a new Policy Brief released today by UH Mānoa‘s Social Sciences Public Policy Center.

The project combined a survey of faculty and staff with a detailed "waste audit" conducted at Saunders Hall on the UH Manoa campus, and found that when recycling bins were introduced for the first time, the number of empty bottles and cans discarded into the regular trash dropped over 70%. That brought the overall recycle rate of the beverage containers consumed at work to 87% at this study site.

Before container recycle bins were available, employees in Saunders Hall were already recycling at a very high rate (80%) - primarily by taking their bottles and cans home and recycling there, according to the analysis by the Policy Center. Provision of recycling bins made it more convenient to recycle, and the total recycling rate jumped substantially. In addition, a large majority (68%) of the people who used to take their bottles home changed their behavior and began to deposit their bottles and cans in the bins at work, (even though there was no reimbursement). "It makes sense," said Professor David Nixon, author of the study. "Many people who recycle at home end up ʻdonating‘ them at a recycle bin near a public school, anyway."

Hawaii‘s statewide recycling rate for beverage containers stands at 68% for each of the past two years, but the Department of Health has set a statewide goal of 80%. The City and County of Honolulu is launching curbside recycling pilot projects in Mililani and Hawaii Kai this month, to see whether they can boost the overall recycling rate. The City will be redeeming the five-cent deposits on every bottle and can it collects. There is substantial uncertainty about how many people will part with their bottles and cans, and "give" them to the City. Professor Nixon said "Our study doesn‘t specifically address residential recycle behavior, and it is only among University faculty, staff and students, but it‘s an indication that people are likely to 'donate' a large portion of their bottle and can deposits into recycling bins that are convenient. I predict a substantial windfall for the City in the form of HI-5 deposits. I also predict a substantial jump in the overall recycle rate of containers, as a result of the curbside pilot programs."

The Policy Brief and a Survey Report on which it is based are available at:
The project was conducted as part of the Sustainable Saunders Initiative. A student website is at http://sustainablesaunders.hawaii.edu/


For more information, visit: http://www.publicpolicycenter.hawaii.edu/reports.html