If we fast-forwarded 100 years, this might be a story about anthropology, but instead it's about psychology. behavior, and above all else, recycling.

WMU student Joshua Turske's "behavioral analysis research project is garbage." But that's the whole point here.

Turske is a WMU grad student in Psychology, and he doing research for the company that own Rubbermaid. He's also big on sustainability. That's what got him started on this project.

Josh Turske's behavioral analysis research project examined recycling habits to determine the optimum placement of recycling centers in Wood Hall. His research is now being used to optimize recycling across the WMU campus. (Photo courtesy of WMU)

In a WMU release, Newell Brands Associate Brand Manager Catie Cartee says "we wanted to see which placement and quantity of recycling centers would yield the highest recycling rates and lowest contamination rates."

The research questions Turske set up was this: A team examined the recycle bins at Wood Hall to check the following:

  • What type of recycling label is better--text- or image-based?
  • What number of pods lead to optimum recycling?
  • What is the optimum placement of pods?
  • Which type of container material produces the best results?

"Every day we would sort through everything to rate it for accuracy. You lost your sense of smell, which was good," Turske laughs. "It made it easier to sort."

What they found was:

"One of the main findings of Turske's study involved signage placed near recycling centers. Data showed people were more likely to recycle--and do so correctly--when a sign above the bins featured pictures rather than just text to demonstrate what people could dispose of in the containers."

The study also has WMU re-assessing recycling bin placement and it hopes this will also cut custodial costs.