Fall 2021 Sustainability Fellow: Jessica Meeker
Partner: Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP)
Project: Away from Home Recycling Analysis
Student: Jessica Meeker, Second Year Graduate Student in Public Administration
In Fall 2021, Jessica worked with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) to analyze the effectiveness of the FDEP’s Away from Home Recycling Program. The project was an extension of the Spring 2021 and Summer 2021 Away from Home Recycling efforts, which were also conducted by Sustainability Fellows.
Jessica worked with Karen Moore, Environmental Administrator, and other members of the FDEP’s Division of Waste Management. Over the course of the semester, Jessica studied Meridian Park, Tom Brown Park, and Messer Park.
The three parks were locations that Sustainability Fellows had previously analyzed and had undergone some improvements, such as co-location of trash and recycling bins. Jessica was tasked with researching whether these improvements had reduced the percentage of recyclables in trash containers and the percentage of contaminated materials in recycling bins.
In Meridian Park, Jessica evaluated twelve recycling bins and twelve trash bins over a three-week observation period. In Tom Brown Park, Jessica analyzed eleven recycling bins and seventeen trash bins over a three-week observation period. Finally, in Messer Park, Jessica evaluated nine recycling bins and nine trash bins over a two-week observation period.
Data collected from Meridian Park
Overall, Jessica found that co-located trash and recycling bins reduced the percentage of recyclables in trash containers and the percentage of contaminated materials in recycling bins despite an increase in park usage.
“The biggest challenge was the pace at which changes were made,” said Jessica. “It was fairly slow.”
Jessica noted that further improvements could include placing educational signs above recycling bins, improving bin labeling, and providing more consistent bin coloring and co-location. She also recommended that sports teams using the parks could be educated about the proper disposal of litter.
“We started this program because we understand that away from home recycling isn’t happening in the state of Florida, so we needed to get the data firsthand to make a case for it,” said Moore. “Jessica and the other Fellows have helped us push our mission forward through this data. Jessica was our boots on the ground, talking to employees and checking in to make sure that changes have been implemented.”
The FDEP Division of Waste Management plans on having further conversations with the City of Tallahassee’s Parks and Recreation team and aims to implement similar changes across the state of Florida.
Bin locations in Meridian Park
To learn more about the FDEP's Division of Waste Management, visit floridadep.gov/waste.
To learn more about the Sustainability Fellows program, visit sustainablecampus.fsu.edu/sustainability-fellows.