Results: Desk-Side Recycling Pilot Participant Survey
Indiana University Office of Sustainability
Meredith Dowling, No Waste Coordinator
In order to support user education for the IU desk-side recycling program, the
IUOS No Waste program sent an anonymous survey to Service Building staff on
April 13, 2011. At the time these staff members received the survey, all Service
Building staff had been participating in a desk-side recycling pilot program since
February 28, 2011. Many thanks to the 39 Service Building staff who responded
to our request for input from desk-side recycling bin users.
The responses to this survey were instrumental in designing an effective
university-wide desk-side recycling program. Because of comments received
about the pilot project, optional desk-side recycling label templates are
available through the No Waste program. If you would like a copy of the label
template and instructions for printing your own desk-side recycling label, please
visit http://www.indiana.edu/~nowaste/DeskSide.htm#label. The template can
be printed onto standard half-page Avery labels.
In addition to creating labels for users, IUB now offers a comprehensive FAQ list
to answer common questions. This is available through the No Waste website,
listed above. The initial pilot project instructed users to collect only paper in their
desk-side recycling bins. Due to user input requesting that desk-side recycling
be “commingled” recycling (meaning that all recyclables are collected in one
bin), the campus desk-side recycling program will accept “commingled”
recycling, including paper, plastics 1-7, aluminum, and steel.
To measure the effectiveness of the desk-side recycling pilot program, staff
members weighed the building’s total trash and recyclables daily for three
weeks before and three weeks after desk-side recycling bins with trash sidecars
were installed (as seen below). The data assessing the effectiveness of the pilot
project is also available through the No Waste program in a separate
In summary, the data collected during the pilot project show that the average
recycling rates found in the pre and post implementation periods increased
from 38.5% to 47.1% (by 8.6%), representing a 22% increase over baseline
recycling rates. Given the success of this pilot program, IUB will soon offer desk-
side recycling in all academic buildings and administrative offices. The desk-
side recycling program is scheduled to be installed by the end of January 2012
Summary of Responses____________________________________
1. What do you put in your desk-side recycling bin (select all that
Paper: 100% (39/39 people)
Plastics: 33% (13/39 people)
Cans: 8% (3/39 people)
Glass: 5% (2/39 people)
No respondents indicated that they were missing a desk-side recycling bin.
2. What questions, if any, do you have about the desk-side
Need for Labeling and Clearer Instructions
Confusion about whether the desk-side bins are only for paper or if other
recyclables can be placed in the bins too.
Request for clearer instructions about what goes in trash versus recycling
bins, including labeling on the side of the bins.
Requests for Commingled Desk-side Recycling
Numerous requests that desk-side recycling bins accept commingled
recycling, not just paper products.
Misinformation and Rumors that Recycling is “Thrown Away”
One respondent commented that, “at least some of the custodians are
under the impression that all of this gets thrown in the garbage, not
IUB collects recyclables and waste separately both in buildings and outside before
pick up. Indoors, recyclables are collected in blue containers with the “chasing arrows”
Concern that commingled recyclables are sorted by Building Services
personnel and therefore create an undue burden on staff.2
Trash Sidecar Concerns
Requests for can liners. Comments that it is too small.
Question about Funding Priorities
One person asked, “Why expend so much money on desk-side recycling
containers when there are recycling bins all over the building?” Later in
the survey, this respondent commented: “I think that increasing the
number of recycling bins in each building/office is a better and more
fiscally responsible choice than desk-side recycling.”
3. How could we improve this program as it's rolled out across
Provide Clearer Recycling Instructions
Numerous comments citing confusion about whether desk-side bins are
just for paper or if they are for commingled recyclables.
Requests for a clear list of items that can or cannot be recycled on
Requests for a label on the recycling bin listing what goes in it.
“I think buy in will be the biggest factor in the success of the program.
Maybe open meetings that employees could attend as a kickoff in the
recycling symbol on the front. Red dumpsters are for waste and white dumpsters are
This is incorrect. Commingled recycling is sorted at a Materials Recovery Facility in
Indianapolis by machines and hand sorters working at the facility. Commingled
recycling is not sorted by IUB staff.
Some Call for Elimination of All Desk-side Trash Cans
“Why would we purchase all of the new plastic cans? Are they recycled
material? Why not eliminate the in office trash cans as all of our business
trash should be recycled. Only our snack trash isn't. We should carry it to a
central location and eliminate buying all of those cans. Why do we need
“I don't think desk side cans are necessary. Just like our homes, nearby
cans that are centralized for convenience would reduce the cost of
purchasing new cans.”
Some Want Larger Trash Can with Liner, Others Adjusting and Changing Habits
Numerous complaints that the trash can is too small and/or smells bad
without a liner. Requests for larger trash can or that it be picked up more
A few people commented, however, that they were changing their habits
and getting used to a smaller trashcan.
A few respondents commented that they were adjusting to a smaller
trashcan without a liner by emptying it into larger bins at the end of the
Recycling Video and Campus-wide Email
One respondent suggested sending a campus-wide email with
information about the desk-side recycling bins to eliminate confusion
about what goes in them.
One respondent suggested creating a video and posting it to IUB website
discussing what each staff member and student can do to make the IU
recycling program a success. This person suggested sending an email out
campus-wide with a link to this video once it is published.
Information about Advantages of Recycling
Request for the university to provide information about advantages of
recycling to increase buy-in.
“Would like more information re: environmental impact and what IU does
with the recycled material.”
“Simply having new colored bins doesn't help - EDUCATION about them
Request for Compost Collection Stations
“How about a compost bin for each building?”
Prioritize Large Recycling Bins Before Installing Desk-side Recycling3
“I think that increasing the number of recycling bins in each
building/office is a better and more fiscally responsible choice than desk-
4. Money saved and reduced environmental impact
Recycling saves Indiana University money compared
to sending trash to the landfill
Strongly Disagree No Opinion Agree Strongly Agree
Prior to rolling out the desk-side recycling program, recycling bins in public areas were
Recycling lowers my environmental impact and that of
Strongly Disagree No Opinion Agree Strongly Agree
Recycling lowers my environmental impact
and that of Indiana University
No Opinion, 16%
Strongly Agree, 41%
Appendix: Text of Online Survey
The survey was conducted using Survey Monkey, a free electronic system. The
link to the original survey is: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/S55FDFX.
Service Building Desk-side Recycling Survey
As you probably know, the Service Building recently began piloting a desk-side
recycling program. The IU Office of Sustainability requests your feedback and
suggestions on the program.
1. What do you put in your desk-side recycling bin (select all that apply)?
I don't have a desk-side recycling bin yet
2. What questions, if any, do you have about the desk-side recycling program?
3. Our program needs a name! Do you have any suggestions?
4. How could we improve this program as it's rolled out across campus?
5. Money saved and reduced environmental impact
Disagree No opinion Agree
money compared to
sending trash to the
Recycling lowers my
and that of Indiana