Greening academia: developing sustainable waste management at UK higher educational institutions

Zhang, Na (2011) Greening academia: developing sustainable waste management at UK higher educational institutions University of Southampton, School of Engineering and the Environment, Doctoral Thesis , 195pp.


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Dealing with municipal solid waste has become a problematic issue in the United Kingdom (UK). With actions to mitigate the potentially adverse impacts of climate change debate and space for, and costs of, landfill becoming critical, a landfilldominated strategy is no longer acceptable. In this context, the attitudes and behaviour of young adults, particularly university students, who often have little experience of taking responsibility for waste management activities, have not been studied in great detail. Since the 1960s, the UK higher education system has expanded six fold to >2.4 million students. The overall production of waste at Higher Education institutions (HEIs) is therefore very large and presents significant challenges as the associated legislative, economic and environmental pressures can be difficult to control and manage. Therefore, a comprehensive research focusing on university students is urgently required. Changing the way HEIs deal with their waste is an important issue because of fast-changing legislation and increasing costs. The solution is a new approach to waste management: a revolutionary change in the way that HEIs think, the way HEIs act and the way HEIs handle their waste. This has massive implications for the Higher Education (HE) sector. It means developing extensive institution-wide infrastructure to provide greater flexibility and user-centric solutions to suit the need of students and staff. It also means that HEIs work together and potential collaboration between HEIs and Local Authorities (LAs) to maximise resource efficiency, meet future legislative requirements and achieve their corporate responsibilities and commitments. This thesis reports on a study of waste management practices at HEIs in the UK. The issue was approached from both a theoretical and a practical standpoint. The study used the University of Southampton (UoS) as a case study and examined how waste recycling projects can be developed effectively using infrastructure, service provision and behavioural change techniques as part of a wider research programme investigating waste management in medium- and high-density housing. The study clearly showed that there was potential for significantly improving reuse and recycling at university halls of residence (HoR) and that more convenient and higher quality infrastructure and service provision resulted in higher recycling rates. Furthermore, students have lifestyles that impact significantly on waste arisings and consequently on waste management operations at HoR (and probably at HEIs and student-dominated residential areas). For schemes to be successful at HEIs, they must be based on a thorough understanding of students’ recycling behaviour, and their perceptions of the barriers to recycling. The key to unlocking behaviour change lies in the provision of appropriate infrastructure and effective service provision alongside a targeted behaviour change programme. Mass media coverage especially the Internet has a rising influence on university students’ environmental knowledge while environmental education at school has become the secondary source of information. The results also revealed that university students possessed less knowledge than they believed which makes informative behavioural interventions a vital component of effective recycling schemes at HEIs

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Organisations: University of Southampton, Civil Maritime & Env. Eng & Sci Unit
ePrint ID: 196479
Date :
Date Event
March 2011Published
Date Deposited: 08 Sep 2011 07:44
Last Modified: 18 Apr 2017 01:34
Further Information:Google Scholar

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