Greener Research

Lifting the lid - research into student attitudes and behaviours towards waste and recycling

NUS was recently commissioned by SITA-UK, a recycling and resource management company, to conduct research into student attitudes towards waste and recycling. We found that whilst positive steps have been taken, students will require further support from their institutions in order to improve on current levels of recycling and match the commitment to recycling seen across the UK as a whole.

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We surveyed 2563 students from higher education institutions with the following headline findings:

· Respondents living in halls of residences are more likely to need additional support to achieve improvements in recycling and waste behaviour, with over a quarter of respondents living in university-owned halls of residences not aware of the recycling collection from where they live during term time.

· Respondents living off campus also highlighted their need for further support, in particular when it comes to the campus recycling system – under half of respondents (46.9%) living in privately rented houses were aware of their institutions recycling scheme on campus.

· First year students in particular need extra support with first year respondents more likely to be recycling less at university than other year groups – for example 14.5% of first years report recycling less at university than during holidays compared to 10.6% of second year students.

· Environmental benefits are reported to be a key motivator for respondents who recycling, along with a belief that they are doing the right thing (75.5% recycle to avoid waste going to landfill and 67.8% think that by recycling they are doing the right thing).

· Just under 10% of respondents reported that they don’t recycle (8.2%) – the main reasons cited for not recycling include a lack of awareness of recycling collections from where they live (39%), a lack of support from their friends and flatmates around recycling (24% say no one else in their accommodation recycles) and a quarter (23%) say they don’t have enough storage space for materials before collection.

Please download the report to read the full research findings and find out our recommendations for improving student recycling.  If you'd like to know more about the research, please contact Rachel Drayson, Environmental Researcher, on