To sort or not to sort? Are the capital residents ready to sort household solid wastes?

Nazarbayev University scientists studied the behavioral attitude of Nur-Sultan city’s residents to the processing of household solid waste (HSW) and came to the conclusion that despite the imperfection of the existing management system for collection and recycling of wastes, residents of the capital are already sorting household wastes at their houses. The anonymous survey conducted within the study was the first attempt to assess the attitude of the capital’s residents to HSW sorting. According to scientists, its results can be useful for local authorities in developing an effective HSW management system in Nur-Sultan city.

The research, conducted by random sampling from April to July 2018, involved 3,281 respondents of different age categories from 18 to 60 years. At the time of the survey, 24 % of respondents were aware of HSW sorting and practiced it at source separation, even though dedicated bins for different recyclable materials were not widely available in most parts of the city.  Scientists also studied the average daily amount of HSW accumulated by the family, the level of satisfaction with the services of public utilities, as well as the residents’ awareness of waste sorting.

– Based on the respondents’ answers on HSW sorting, the behavioral factors on the sorting of different types of waste by residents of residential areas were identified, – comments Dr. Yerbol Sarbasov, an employee of the Department of Chemical and Material Engineering, School of Engineering and Digital Sciences, Nazarbayev University.

Survey Analysis by Gender, Marital Status, and Age

 A survey of respondents, with 43% men and 57% of women, showed that gender plays a role in the intention to separate waste. Thus, 21% of men and 27% of women reported that they share waste independently in apartments or houses. Analysis of the marital status of respondents, with 63% of married, showed that 24% of respondents supported the waste sorting initiative. In addition, the intention to sort wastes increases with age, as nearly one-third of older respondents expressed their willingness to sort HSW.

Social Activity Level of Residents                                    

According to an assessment of the existing HSW management services, almost 68 % of respondents in urban areas gave positive feedback on the quality of HSW management services, while in the suburbs this figure has dropped to 28 %.  The majority of residents of private houses noted the lack of HSW collection systems in suburbs, whilst other suburban areas’ residents reported even on the existence of bins for different types of waste and regular disposal of HSW by public utilities.

It is noteworthy that Nazarbayev University dormitories have the highest waste separation rate. The reason is that the University actively supports the separate waste collection and there are special bins for different types of waste on the campus of the University.

How to increase motivation

 According to the survey results, the capital residents are ready to sort HSW at their apartments or houses. However, local authorities need to provide quality service for waste collection and disposal. In addition, scientists believe that additional short educational courses or waste sorting programs should be introduced in pre-school and school educational institutions.

 In Nur-Sultan city, several private companies already provide services for the collection and recycling of plastic and waste electrical and electronic equipment. In the framework of the pilot project “Plastic lives here”, yellow metal boxes for plastic collection, orange metal boxes for hazardous waste collection and containers for glass and the metal collection has been installed in selected locations of the capital.

Since last year, Nazarbayev University, NU Green Campus together with the Ph.D. student and eco-trainer Veronika Dashkova have already launched a free author’s training course “Conscious Consumption for Beginners”. Veronika a professional ecologist, a Ph.D. candidate in the field of ecology introduces the basic principles of conscious consumption and provides individuals with all the tools needed to do eco-friendly shopping.

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