The #GatorsBEATWaste Station in the Reitz Union Food Court was launched during the summer of 2019 as part of a partnership between PepsiCo, Business Services, and the Office of Sustainability. It is unique in that it is the first and only of its kind on UF’s campus. The Station offers easy-to-follow instructions and graphics for multiple post-consumer disposal options, like composting and recycling, and has the potential to be a model for future waste collection systems on campus.
- From Then to Now: Station Design
- Meet the #GatorsBEATWaste Student Research Team
- What We Do
- How We Are Doing It
- Project Timeline
- What We Have Discovered So Far
- Why We Are Doing It
- How You Can Help
- Awards & Press
From Then to Now: Station Design
Since its inception, the station has undergone changes to make it easier to use and more approachable. The Station’s first design consisted of six colored trash cans, with each color corresponding to a different type of waste. From there, the colored trash cans were replaced with cohesive containers made of recycled plastic that streamlined the look of the station and aligned with the Station’s and UF’s sustainability goals. In addition to these new bins, two screens were installed next to the Station to share educational video and images related to the Station and waste efforts across campus.
The most recent iteration of the Station’s design involves a revamp of the signs above each receptacle and the incorporation of plants to make the station more inviting.
In the Fall of 2019, the #GatorsBEATWaste station team started working with a small team of student researchers to collect and analyze waste data at the station, helping to identify opportunities for improvement. The data and observations collected have contributed to incremental adjustments in the design and signage of the station.
Read on to learn more about the ongoing student research project and how you can get involved with improving waste efforts in the Reitz Union and across campus!
Meet the #GatorsBEATWaste Student Research Team
What We Do
- Determine how accurately waste is disposed of in the Station. To do this, Michelle and Alex work with Gator Dining and Reitz Union staff to collect data twice per week to gain insight into the items that users are disposing of correctly and incorrectly.
- Analyze and interpret the data that has been collected to find trends and patterns. Michelle has created an Excel spreadsheet that logs data and automatically calculates several different statistics, which are then reviewed and discussed by Michelle and Jake. For example, the spreadsheet can determine which bin has been used the most accurately over the last day, week, month, or semester!
- Adjust the Station’s user interface based on the disposal trends and patterns. This semester, new signs are being installed above the #GatorsBEATWaste Station with the goal of increasing the level of interaction with the station, as well as increasing the accuracy of each bin.
How We Are Doing It
We couldn’t collect data without the help of the amazing support system behind the #GatorsBEATWaste research team!
Here is an outline of how data collection typically proceeds each week:
- 11:00 AM: Fresh trash bags are put into each container of the #GatorsBEATWaste Station.
- 3:00 PM: All trash bags are pulled out of the #GatorsBEATWaste Station and set safely out of the way.
- 3:30-5:30 PM: Michelle and Alex retrieve the trash bags and bring them to the Reitz Union loading dock. Here, Michelle and Alex open each trash bag, sort through their contents, and weigh and record each item. All this information goes into Michelle’s database for analysis.
The #GatorsBEATWaste research project began during the Fall 2019 semester but was unfortunately interrupted by COVID-19 shortly thereafter. Luckily, the team continued to communicate throughout the pandemic and was ready to pick up where we left off as soon as it was safe to do so. Michelle and Alex resumed sorting during the Spring 2021 semester and are continuing to sort this semester.
The goal is to have enough data from the Spring 2021 semester and the Fall 2021 semester to make conclusions about the affects of signage on the accuracy of disposal in the #GatorsBEATWaste Station by December 2021.
What We Have Discovered So Far
Over the course of the Spring 2021 semester, Michelle and Alex sorted through 90 pounds worth of trash samples to gather valuable information about how accurately people are using the #GatorsBEATWaste Station. Here are some important takeaways from the analysis of their sample data:
- Nearly 30% of the trash collected in the #GatorsBEATWaste Station is food
- The compost bin is used the most accurately, with an accuracy rating of 87%
- The paper recycling bin is used the least accurately, with an accuracy rating of 21%
- The landfill bin was used the most out of all the bins at the #GatorsBEATWaste Station
Why We Are Doing It
The data from the #GatorsBEATWaste Station will serve numerous purposes, even after Michelle, Alex, and Jake have finished collecting and analyzing it.
The most important goal of the research project is to improve the accuracy of the #GatorsBEATWaste Station, which in turn will decrease the levels of contamination in each bin. Contamination occurs when items are put into the incorrect bin and can cause otherwise recyclable or compostable items to be thrown away in the landfill instead. By analyzing how accurately items are disposed of in the #GatorsBEATWaste Station before and after physical changes have been made to its surroundings, the Station can be adjusted to be as user-friendly as possible.
User-friendliness = everyone uses the station more accurately = “cleaner” garbage!
The research team’s data can also be used to identify unsustainable items, materials, or restaurants that may be contributing to contamination of the Station. For example, if the data showed that plastic bowls (which are not recyclable) are disposed of in higher quantities than other food containers, we could aim to use more sustainable alternatives in the Reitz Union Food Court.
How You Can Help
Michelle, Alex, and Jake are looking for volunteers to help them with different aspects of their project this semester. Below are brief descriptions of the two types of volunteers that they are looking for.
- Lunch time volunteers: We are looking for volunteers to be at the GBW station during peak lunch hours (11 AM – 2 PM) to ensure that people are using the station correctly. Volunteers will be trained to help familiarize station visitors with the station and to answer any questions about waste reduction and recycling.
- Data collection volunteers: We are also looking for volunteers to help Michelle and Alex collect data from the station. This entails meeting Michelle and Alex at the Reitz Union on Tuesdays and Wednesdays (times will be decided based on volunteer availability) to help them sort through and weigh trash. Gloves, hand sanitizer, and wipes will be provided!
If you are interested in volunteering, please visit the #GatorsBeatWaste Ambassador interest form (or scan the QR code) and provide your information and general availability.
If you have any questions about volunteering, please reach out to Michelle Manfrey (firstname.lastname@example.org)