Designing Hong Kong Internship (Semester B, 2013-2014)

Research Topic: Improving Recycling Behavior at CityU: An Experiment on a Simple but Effective Intervention

This internship was co-organized with the Designing Hong Kong and CDFO of CityU. It aimed to offer work experience in a think tank, exposing students to, and developing knowledge about non-mandatory and cost-effective methods that help to alleviate the waste problem in Hong Kong. Three undergraduate students from the Department of Public Policy (POL), namely Frank HO, Hugo KAN and Esther TUNG, were involved in the internship. 

In March 2014, a small-scale pilot experiment was conducted on the university concourse (i.e. 4th floor of Academic Building 1) at CityU. The interventions were information cues, including both positive and negative messages delivered to the passerby. On one hand, a road sign indicating the direction and distance of the closest recycle bin was placed next to the garbage bins. On the other hand, a picture with negatively-framed slogan “our landfill is dying!” and a stop sign containing waste paper, plastic bottles and aluminum cans reminding people of the importance of recycling was placed on top of the garbage bins.

The experiment lasted for two weeks. The first week was the control period without intervention and the second week was the intervention period. The recycle rate [(weight of total recyclables/weight of total waste) x 100%] of the two periods were compared to evaluate the effectiveness of the interventions. Encouragingly, the result showed that there was about 30% increase in recycle rate after the interventions were installed. This finding was publicized in mid-April 2014 through a press conference. It got coverage from local news media including Apple Daily, Hong Kong Economic Times, Tai Gong Pao, and RTHK Radio 3 (see the media clippings below). Such a result has laid a sound foundation for the two succeeding internships.

DHK

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