Authors: Yian Wu, Dr. Susan Gillespie
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Susan Gillespie
College: College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
This research project investigated paper towel recycling in women’s bathrooms on the University of Florida campus. Recycling is typically a voluntary behavior, dependent on the individuals to know what, how, and where to recycle. It should be different to recycle in the private intimate spaces of bathrooms where consumers may be monitored by others. This project was guided by the distinction made by Michel de Certeau between the “strategies” of those in power, who seek to direct the behaviors of consumers—in this case, UF administration—and the “tactics” employed by those consumers, which are often at odds with institutional strategies. The “strategies” were gauged by newspaper accounts, the UF recycling website, local signage, and the placement of receptacles in bathrooms. Consumer “tactics” were measured by observations of “wrong” materials deposited in bathroom receptacles. Four hypotheses were devised to measure how much consumer behaviors match the expectations of the university administration. The results tentatively demonstrate that the most important factor impacting consumer recycling behaviors is the physical setup. Therefore, the main conclusion is that it is difficult to achieve consistent cross-campus recycling behaviors with inconsistent facilities. While overall consumer commitment is high, more can be done to achieve UF’s goal.