Recycling at institutions of higher education: Causal conditions for disparate performance and opportunity for reform



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Institutions of Higher Education (IHEs) are viewed as analogous to small cities because of similarities in organizational structure and operational procedures. The existing literature on sustainability in higher education lacks a cross-national empirically tested study revealing the characteristics of IHEs most successful at producing high per capita recycling yields. As such, this dissertation employs a mixed-method research design to answer the question: Which variables create an opportunity for institutions of higher education to be successful at recycling? This study advances our understanding of the factors contributing to successful recycling in higher education by employing three research approaches to the analysis. First, the 2014 RecycleMania yield data is evaluated based on institutional characteristics and recycling behavior variables. Next, surveys were conducted amongst 2,114 participants across eleven IHEs to reveal the recycling outlook scores of the students, staff, and faculty at IHEs. Finally, IHEs characteristics are again evaluated by institution size while recycling programs and behaviors are discussed indepth based on developed case studies at eleven IHEs. The findings of this research illustrate that when considering all of the IHEs participating in the 2014 RecycleMania competition, the characteristics of IHEs including private status, highly residential, with mature recycling programs, and continual participation in the competition produce higher per capita recycling yields. Additionally, when evaluating recycling outlook scores based on survey data, those with higher scores are female, politically liberal, and upperclassmen. Ultimately, a conflict in existing literature and findings discussed in Chapter Four of this dissertation led to a reevaluation of the significant variables based on institution size. Re-testing the variables revealed varied conditions in per capita recycling yields for IHEs at small, medium, and large institutions. These differences and case studies of recycling programs and their RecycleMania efforts at eleven IHEs are discussed. This dissertation concludes with a discussion of policy diffusion between IHEs and Municipalities. This possibility creates a call for future research projects.



Recycling, Higher education, Sustainability, Common variables, Successful programs