Plastics Recycling in NYC: A Survey of Residents’ Understandings

Client: New York City Department of Sanitation
Faculty: Kei Hayashi, Steven Jacobs
Team: Angel Chen, Jessica DiDonato, Rebekah Morris, Prashant Shah
Year: 2012
NYC suffers from a low rate of plastics recycling, and the national plastic resin identification coding (RIC) system is undergoing revisions that may influence this trend. The New York City Department of Sanitation (DSNY) seeks to identify the causes for the low rates in order to increase residential diversion of recyclable plastics. DSNY requested a Capstone team gather data through a consumer research study. The team held focus groups to inform design of a citywide survey, and the resulting survey was distributed to 10,000 NYC residents through community boards, professional and academic networks, social media channels, and community groups. The team analyzed the survey data to produce a report that will assist DSNY in assessing its outreach and education efforts. It also provided DSNY with statistics on the benefits and shortfalls of the current and proposed plastic labeling system. The final recommendations will be used to make recycling more efficient in NYC and to contribute to the national debate on plastics recycling behavior.