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Research Proposal Sample for a Short Essay on Recycling

Executive Summary

This short essay recycling research proposal addresses recycling challenges in colleges and universities and their possible solutions. Higher educational establishments prepare the youth for the future, and teaching students to care about the environment should be one of their activity areas. Waste management and recycling are of great importance to reducing the accumulation of trash that destroys the planet. Although recycling is not a new issue for colleges, some institutions continuously face challenges in sorting out litter efficiently.

The students and the staff at Occidental College recycle waste. However, they still deal with the lack of coordination, knowledge, and equipment. Therefore, it is recommended to hire a qualified specialist (eco-activist), include specific courses in the college’s curriculum, and install additional recycling bins in suitable locations. These strategies are cost-effective because the expenses can be minimized. The implementation of the new boxes in the most appropriate places is more effective than putting them randomly. The solution is effective and can be applied in other colleges, leading to a positive effect on recycling rates.

Recycling Essay Introduction and Problem Statement

Waste management and recycling are not new phenomena in the USA, considering the accumulation of litter in nature and its detrimental impact on water, soil, air, etc. Entrepreneurs understand the potential efficiency of the waste management industry, which is friendly to the environment and allows generating high revenues. At first, large enterprises were accused of trash pollution and were required to manage their waste. Further on, humanity realized that separate households and other facilities should also be encouraged to sort out waste to considerably reduce its accumulation. Great attention is paid to the young generation to increase their awareness about the harm of uncontrollable waste for the planet and teach recycling litter. Colleges and universities are quite influential institutions for most Americans, where students spend most of their time acquiring knowledge to get a degree and find well-paid jobs. The contribution of young people to popularizing recycling should not be underestimated; they can challenge the aftermath of consumerism and lay the foundations of waste management. Bailey et al. call higher educational establishments “mini-towns,” considering their size and population diversity (2). It means that they generate much waste that adds to the burden of national pollution. However, the scholars focus on the potential of colleges and universities to educate the youth on recycling and bring up environmentally conscious leaders (Bailey et al. 2). Kaplowitz et al. agree that college or university residents (staff and students) can protect the environment by promoting waste management and recycling in particular (612). Many educational establishments have already implemented programs teaching students how to sort out the trash and satisfying all opportunities for effective recycling.

Meanwhile, despite understanding the importance of waste management and elaboration of multiple relevant programs, recycling is inefficient in colleges and universities. First, the existing projects do not consider the effectiveness of recycling bins’ location, so their inappropriate implementation does not facilitate environmental consciousness (Bailey et al. 3; Kaplowitz et al. 613; Zain et al. 167). It means that bins or boxes are located in places where students are less likely to throw the trash, so the efficiency of the projects is lower than expected. Another problem is the lack of public support and leaders who would guide students and staff on implementing recycling programs timely and accurately (Kaplowitz et al. 613). Even if students are willing to participate, they may lack knowledge and guidance, mainly at the beginning of waste sorting implementation. The scholars add that educating students on recycling trash is more effective than telling them why it is noteworthy (Kaplowitz et al. 618). The youth may realize the adverse effects of waste on the planet; however, they also need to know the essence of recycling. While some colleges and universities succeed in sustainable recycling, others lag behind or do not recycle at all. For instance, Occidental College in Los Angeles encourages its students and staff to recycle. The number and diversity of students should facilitate the potential to affect waste management. Although the educational establishment has a recycling program, students face several challenges in understanding the essence of recycling and getting qualified guidance, which weakens their achievements in waste management and explains low engagement (Kenney). Student activists complain that recycling is based primarily on their initiative, emphasizing the importance of the staff’s enrollment. As a result, profound changes in the college’s approach to waste management and recycling may enhance its sustainability. Besides, the experience of Occidental College can motivate other educational establishments lagging in recycling waste.

Proposed Solution

First, it is recommended to hire a full-time ecological activist to control and guide students and educators. In this case, the recycling program in colleges will still be based on voluntary waste management and students’ free will. However, a qualified individual can coordinate them and would always be available to address relevant challenges. One benefit is that eco-activists have experience in waste management and sorting out trash, so they might be able to organize recycling in large organizations or “mini-towns,” as Bailey et al. (2) emphasized. Considering the existing problems in Occidental College, eco-activists can unite students and explain the benefits of recycling, its essence, and how to do it properly. Besides, they will enforce cooperation with college staff, which students call less interested in recycling. A leader with experience and motivation may inspire them to recycle and increase their awareness of efficient recycling. Also, the eco-activist will evaluate possible gaps in college recycling programs (lack of knowledge, inefficient promotion, etc.). The specialist can develop a plan, addressing all factors that make the educational establishment lag in sorting out the trash. For example, the eco-activist may conclude that the location of posters and bins is insufficient to draw the students’ attention. They may make up the list of most effective and convenient places on campus and in college that do not distract students and the staff from sorting out waste. The benefits of hiring a full-time eco-activist are significant and include but are not limited to facilitating coordination, spreading better knowledge, discovering flaws in recycling, etc.

There are several environmental organizations in Los Angeles where college administrators can find appropriate candidates and consider their experience. Undoubtedly, the solution requires additional expenditures for the new employee’s salary. Nevertheless, the expenses are justified because the benefits outnumber costs, as eco-activists can help educational establishments increase their scores for efficient recycling.

Another strategy is to include waste management courses in the curriculum to enhance the students’ knowledge about recycling. For example, Kenney emphasizes that Occidental College students complain about the lack of information and practical skills on waste management and recycling. Undoubtedly, other courses may cover the significance of being environmentally friendly and taking care of nature. However, it is not enough to engage students and staff. Specific materials should explain how recycling litter decreases trash accumulation and how students contribute to producing less waste. The most important part is to teach the learners to sort out diverse types of waste, tell them about the difference between the bins, etc. This approach is feasible, yet requires accurate elaboration of the material to explain why and how to recycle. The costs include salary for the teachers specialized in waste management and experienced in teaching practical skills to the students. The solution’s benefits are apparent, while higher awareness and understanding of the recycling mechanism may engage college residents in the process.

Finally, it is recommended to install diverse bins for different waste at the most convenient locations. Colors and signs should be clear and catchy to help the students differentiate between paper, glass, plastic from food and other non-recyclable trash. This solution requires additional expenses for purchasing and installing the bins. However, the college can decrease the cost by determining the most efficient locations for boxes in college, on campus, etc. The administrators may buy many bins, but the solution may be less efficient if placed in inappropriate places. Therefore, the smart placement of recycling boxes on the entire territory may help students and staff sort out waste with less effort.

Solution Justification

First, previous studies emphasize the lack of coordination and proper guidance as primary reasons for lower engagement in recycling. Therefore, hiring a qualified expert is justified. Bailey et al. state that inadequate coordination and ineffective leadership are the most frequent causes of insufficient recycling programs (3). Also, they conducted a study revealing that students lack the motivation to sort out waste (Bailey et al. 9). The students do not know why and how to recycle the trash. The college may hire eco-activists, whose responsibility is to coordinate and guide students. They may experience a sense of unity and develop a plan, providing the necessary steps to recycle accurately. The size of schools may allow them to hire part-time specialists; however, colleges and universities comprise large populations, implying that permanent positions of eco-activists or coordinators are vital to control and manage recycling programs. Indeed, Lounsbury found the difference between small and large schools that hire part-time and full-time coordinator managers, respectively (49). The second group was more likely to be connected to the Student Environmental Action Coalition (SEAC), which is significant to efficient recycling (Lounsbury 49). The sense of unity and cooperation with such an organization may increase the students’ motivation.

Additionally, previous researches prove the relation between the lack of knowledge on recycling and lower participation in the programs, affirming the value of relevant education. According to Kaplowitz et al., the success of recycling programs largely depends on the availability of consistent information (613). In other words, if students and teachers realize the economic or environmental benefits and the essence of the process, they are more likely to sort out the trash. Respectively, ignorance discourages individuals from taking part in recycling projects. Moreover, scholars add that students are more concerned with theoretical and practical information on recycling than lectures on its significance (Kaplowitz et al. 618). The youth may be aware of potential benefits; however, they do not know how to recycle, which bins to use, where they are located, etc. Hence, colleges should include a relevant course in the curriculum, sparing more lessons for practical guidelines.

Finally, placing bins in convenient and relevant locations proves to be an efficient solution. Pike et al. conducted a study where the students participated in the experiment, recycling trash in their apartments (221-222). They found that the participants who had access to recycling bins were more willing to sort out waste even after the experiment (Pike et al. 222). The researchers suggest that the availability of boxes is the critical factor to the recycling program’s success. So, if a college establishes recycling bins in consistent locations, it can increase recycling rates. Bailey et al. agree with the previous research, stating that insufficient and inconvenient location affects recycling rates negatively (8). Hence, the studies show that the availability of recycling bins in suitable places can be the key to success. Therefore, colleges can reevaluate the distribution of recycling boxes in classrooms, on campuses, etc., and invest in additional equipment. Combined with professional guidance and relevant education, this strategy may motivate the students and reduce potential challenges to sorting out trash.

Meanwhile, it would be reasonable to consider potential barriers and inconsistencies, diminishing the value of the proposed strategies. Indeed, some scholars question the necessity of courses to provide the students with information on recycling. Thus, the study by Pike et al. showed that the availability of bins in the students’ apartments enhanced their willingness to sort out the trash, and “additional focus on education about the importance of recycling was not necessary” (226). At first sight, the data may be interpreted as the unnecessary initiation of courses/programs/projects on recycling, increasing the students’ and teachers’ awareness. It, therefore, questions the proposed solution to engage the college residents in the relevant courses. However, the findings align with the study by Kaplowitz et al., stating that students need more practical guidelines about the essence of recycling, differences between the bins, what products are recyclable, etc. (618). It means that the college should approach recycling education comprehensively. The bulk of the course should be dedicated to the questions that help the students grasp what recycling is and how to sort out the trash. Undoubtedly, the benefits of waste management and recycling should also be covered to increase the students’ motivation. However, the fundamentals should not be underestimated or ignored. Zain et al. also reject the necessity of recycling education, as 98% of the participants knew which items could be sorted out (168). However, student activists at Occidental College complained specifically about the lack of knowledge on recycling among students, justifying the relevance of the strategy in this particular case.

Another concern is the high cost of extra recycling bins. Nevertheless, the focus on quality rather than quantity may prevent unnecessary expenditures. Besides, the college can also earn money from recycling to cover the expenses and even generate additional income. Consequently, the cost of recycling bins should be an obstacle.


To sum up, higher education establishments should join recycling programs, relying on a positive experience of other colleges and universities. Occidental College in Los Angeles supports waste management and recycling. However, the 2016 articles by Kenney reveals several challenges to implementing the efficient program. The college faces typical hardships, diminishing the students’ efforts to sort out the trash. Therefore, the proposed solution suggests addressing the most common complaints. First, a qualified individual (eco-activist or manager coordinator) should be hired to guide students and staff, facilitating their cooperation and a sense of unity. The college should include specialized courses in the curriculum, providing students with practical skills rather than merely theory of benefits of recycling. Finally, it is recommended to increase the number of recycling bins for different waste and install them in the most appropriate locations. Undoubtedly, these strategies involve expenses related to salaries for new employees and teachers, as well as for purchasing new bins. However, the cost may be lower than expected if the college focuses on the quality and relevance of location rather than the quantity of the containers. Also, the educational establishment can generate more money by recycling waste. The proposed solutions are feasible and can be easily implemented. Undoubtedly, this is only the first step to enhancing the sufficiency of the available recycling program. If the current solution turns out to be effective, the college may share the experience with other educational establishments. The administrators may also need to consider specific strategies for the staff or funding to afford efficient recycling programs. Overall, colleges and universities enjoy a great potential, bringing up future leaders who can protect the environment and address the errors of their ancestors.

Works Cited

Bailey, Jamar, et al. “Strategies for Improving Recycling at a Higher Education Institution: A Case Study of the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, Barbados.” The Open Waste Management Journal, vol. 8, 2015, pp. 1-11. doi:10.2174/1876400201508010001. Accessed 03 July 2021.

Kaplowitz, Michael D., et al. “Garnering input for recycling communication strategies at a Big Ten University.” Resources, Conservation and Recycling, vol. 53, 2009, pp. 612-623. Elsevier, doi:10.1016/j.resconrec.2009.04.018. Accessed 03 July 2021.

Kenney, Cordelia. “Campus Recycling Proves Insufficient.” The Occidental, 1 Jan. 2016, Accessed 03 July 2021.

Lounsbury, Michael. “Institutional Sources of Practice Variation: Staffing College and University Recycling Programs.” Administrative Science Quarterly, vol. 46, no. 1, 2001, pp. 29-56. ProQuest, doi:10.2307/2667124. Accessed 03 July 2021.

Pike, Lisa, et al. “Science education and sustainability initiatives: A campus recycling case study shows the importance of opportunity.” International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, vol. 4, no. 3, 2003, pp. 218-229. doi:10.1108/14676370310485410. Accessed 03 July 2021.

Zain, Shahrom, et al. “Recycling Practice to Promote Sustainable Behavior at University Campus.” Asian Social Science, vol. 8, no. 16, 2012, pp. 163-173. doi:10.5539/ass.v8n16p163. Accessed 03 July 2021.


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