JABA Study Increases Recycling Behavior at Texas University


By Todd A. Ward, PhD, BCBA-D

Founding Editor, bSci21.org

A study by O’Connor, Lerman, and Fritz in the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis at the University of Houston – Clear Lake found a simple solution to encourage recycling on campus.

The study had the following conditions:

1) Baseline: Researchers simply monitored recycling levels across three buildings without changing anything.  Recycling was measured in terms of number of plastic bottles, and percentage of plastic bottles, in recycling bins per week.

2) New Bins: After baseline, researchers increased the saliency of the recycling bins, which had appeared nearly identical to trash bins, by swapping out the old bins with new brightly colored bins.

3) Increased Number of Bins: Researchers then placed additional bins in targeted public areas of each building.

4) Relocated Bins to Classrooms: Lastly, the team relocated the bins from the previous condition to classrooms, each near the trash can.

Results suggested that the initial baseline levels of recycling did not significantly change after new, more salient, bins were introduced.  In addition, recycling remained unchanged even after more bins were added to the public areas of each building.

Recycling behavior increased only after recycling bins were relocated to classrooms.  Not only that, but the number of plastic bottles seen in the trash also decreased.

Be sure to read the full article available from PubMed Central for more details and limitations of the study and let us know how this simple solution could be implemented at your school or office in the comments below.

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