Litter in the Oxford Community (Olivia, 2:00)

This topic submitted by Sarah, Katie, Tim, Christina, Devon ( mortonke@miavx1.miamioh.edu ) on 12/11/98 .

I. Introduction
a. Purpose/Problem: At the outset of our project, the members of our group discussed the possibility of a significant amount of litter and trash left uncollected on the streets of the Oxford community, especially after the Friday and Saturday night partying which is common on weekends. We believed that this litter was due to the carelessness of both local residents and the student body, and or possibly due to inefficient trash collection methods and/or ineffective recycling programs. The members of our group felt that trash belongs in recycling centers or appropriate garbage collection depositories, not on streets, lawns, or other local areas. Not only is it unattractive, it is also a possible threat to the wildlife and natural plantlife that exists in the community. We hypothesized that there is a significant amount of garbage in various areas of the Oxford community, especially in the student housing areas, and that by measuring how much and determining what kind of trash is present, we could establish the causes of this phenomenon and devise solutions to this problem.
b. How did we decide on this project? How did we decide on these specific questions?
We decided on this project at the suggestion of our professor, and after considering it, we decided it would be a valid investigation. Two of the group members were Oxford residents before entering Miami University, and as residents had observed some of the litter around their own community, and also had noticed the trends in litter such as the increased amount of trash left uncollected after weekends. As a group, we wanted to have a topic we all had interest in. This type of "social project" appealed to all of us and we would actually want to put time and
effort into it for the good of the community.
c. What did we plan to accomplish: Our lab group planned to collect, measure, and make observations upon the various amounts and distribution of litter which is left uncollected in the Oxford community by sampling various areas (including residential areas, student housing, and the commercial district). We planned to investigate the causes for the litter and the areas in which it is most prevalent, as well as define the damage it incurs upon the local environment. Furthermore, we planned to define solutions for this problem (such as improved recycling programs), and, if necessary, to make a presentation of our evidence and conclusions to the Oxford City Council with a petition for action. We decided to use our class lab session to provide a forum for discussion among our peers in our Natural Systems class. The discussion was intended to be a brainstorming session in which we presented some of the information we've gathered, and some possible solutions. Depending on the class's response, we would determine the necessity of contacting the City of Oxford. If so, we planned on assembling a packet containing our results and the recommendations of our peers.
d. Relevance: Our lab group finds this research interesting because it is a problem within our own community. The two members who have been Oxford residents had confronted with this phenomenon before, and those who recently become Miami students had also noticed the phenomenon and become concerned. This research was especially valid because not only was it a method of collecting concrete proof, but it was also leading to an end result, and possibly some form of action by the Oxford City Council.


II. Relevance of Our Research Question:
a. Several hundred projects like ours have been done in a variety of ways in different communities all over the United States and the world. For example, the Nova Scotia Youth Conservation Corps has taken on about 5 separate waste management projects. During one, they conducted waste audits on local businesses in search of a way to reduce and visited houses to educate the people on the advantages of recycling. After all the visits, questions and compiled data results, they developed a management program for the area ("Youth Corps helps with waste reduction").
A town in Massachusetts was able to cut costs by nearly 50% by merging a contract company and composting agency. We have the technology to convert materials, we just have to show people it can work to their economic and environmental advantage ("All kinds of recycling conversation"). Australia is a good example of what can happen if action isn't taken immediately. Landfill capacity was rapidly filling up, people could no longer burn their trash, and no one wanted to invest the money into a new landfill/trash facility. A plan of composting was implemented and organic recycling became a must. Currently, the facility composts 50,000 metric tons per year under a contract till 2004 ("An Australian perspective on recycling organic materials").
The good news is, recycling is on the rise in the United States. As corporations and individuals begin to recycle, the landfills are better kept and have more capacity. In 1989, Washington claimed the highest rate of recycling at 22%, while today the highest region (the Mid-Atlantic) is at 36%. America, on the whole, averages a recycling rate of 30%, with the only region under 25% being the great lakes who hold steady at 16%. Only five states report an increase in trash directed to landfills, with a majority of the remaining states increasing their recycling productivity ("The state of garbage in America").
b. Our research on the subject relates easily to the "big picture" of life. Recycling has become popular in recent years as people realize the importance of conserving waste. The more people that know about recycling and conservation, the healthier the earth and our society in Oxford will
be. People want to learn how to help their communities and usually take an active interest in making a difference, whether to benefit themselves or future generations. If communities know what to do now to conserve waste, it will save a lot of time, space, and money in as soon as a few years from now. It is our objective to get people motivated to do something about the trash problem in this community, and any increase in efficiency locally helps everyone nationwide.


III. Materials and Methods:
a. Our group collected trash from the streets of Oxford for a period four weeks. During these four weeks we elected four streets as sample areas: High (between Main and Poplar), Erin Drive in the Emerald Woods area, Homestead Road, and Main (between Rose and Central); from which we collected data twice a week. We chose to pick up litter on Sundays at noon, right after the weekend, and on Wednesdays at about five thirty. We weighed the litter in pounds, and recorded our results on a data chart according to weight and location. By taking data from several different types of locations, twice a week, for four weeks, we felt assured of having accurate and helpful data. This data would allow us to determine potential problem areas of Oxford where trash levels are higher. We believe this process to be statistically sound because of the number of samples taken, the times they were taken, and the variety of areas sampled. Those particular streets were chosen as a good over-all sampling of the various types of neighborhoods in Oxford. We based our sampling on the observation that the separate areas have distinctive degrees of trash.
b. We feel the design is statistically sound in that the sampling method has been discussed, approved, and analyzed by not only our group, but also other groups and our professor.
a. We feel the results were not biased by the group. We merely collected all the trash visible, weighed it, and presented the data in a straightforward data sheet. We depended on mathematical calculations to analyze the relative amount of litter per neighborhood. For this reason, the results were not skewed in favor or against the hypothesis. Whatever results, they have come strictly from the collection of all the trash in the area. It is predicted the amounts of trash will vary according to the neighborhood and time it is collected.
b. The class was not out collecting data but rather helping to brainstorm ideas for possible solutions to the trash situation. The brainstorming session was helpful to us in examining the significance of litter in the Oxford community, and the attitudes behind it.
c. materials:
plastic trash bags: used to collect and contain trash
bathroom scale: used to determine the bulk mass of the trash collected in pounds
McKee Hall Broom Closet: used to store our trash until disposed of properly
the trunk of Jason Kindinger’s car: used to store litter over Thanksgiving break. We’d like to thank Jason for his generosity and good humor--he’s a swell fellow.
d. We involved the class in the study by presenting information to them in the lab session, facilitating a discussion, and receiving their feedback. Although they were not asked to process data, they were valuable in aiding us in the evaluation of the significance of our data in relation to the Oxford community and our overall project vision.

IV. Results:
a. Observations:
We observed that there was not as much litter as we had previously thought. In our minds, we had images of mountains of litter, especially in the Homestead area, otherwise known as the “ghetto.” However, we would return home with trash bags which had only pathetic amounts of litter in them.
b. we were unable to include our data table because it is in spreadsheet format, which does not transfer to this posting format.


V. Discussion and Conclusions:
a. Reviewing the intentions of our project, in conjunction with the data and analysis thereof, we’d like to make a few comments which could shed further light on the interpretation of our results.
As with any scientific experiment, it is the duty of the researchers to recognize and make note of variables which could have affected an accurate representation of their sample. Due to the unpredictable nature of the environment, in a project like this, there are numerous factors which could have affected our data and results.
First, the amount and nature of the litter we’ve collected over the four week period depends largely on the area in which it was gathered. For example, the residential neighborhood (Erin) displayed lower amounts of litter. We postulate that this is due to the residents’ meticulous attitude towards their neighborhood’s appearance. This family-oriented housing area displayed a tendency to be more careful about trash disposal and recycling, and also displayed painstaking care of lawns and sidewalks. In contrast, the student housing neighborhoods (Main Street and Homestead) displayed less conscientious behavior towards their environment. We attribute this attitude towards the students’ tendency to regard their housing as merely temporary, and therefore not a primary responsibility. Furthermore, it is common (based on our observations) for students to host crowded parties in their houses and yards and fail to clean up the debris incurred by the social gatherings. The lawns may be littered with empty liquor and beer containers, as well as food packaging and cigarette butts. This material spills into the sidewalk and street, and travels into other neighborhoods.
Another factor which may have affected our data is manifested in the commercial district (High Street). Especially on weekends, when the numbers of clients to bars, restaurants, and stores increases, more trash is produced due to higher catering to patrons. This is evidenced by our observation of trash receptacles stuffed to the limit on weekend nights. However, although there is high potential for the sidewalks and streets to show a high amount of litter, we attribute the low levels of collected litter to the desire of local business owners to maintain the cleanliness of the business district so as not to discourage possible customers. In effect, local businesses zealously and regularly clean the areas in front of and surrounding their shops and restaurants, especially on the weekends. Therefore the area stays relatively clean.
Environmental factors may have influenced the data as well. It is possible that wind and rain may have caused litter to travel in and out of our samples areas: wind by carrying it, and rain by washing it into gutters and the sewer system. In addition, our sample period took place in the autumn, and there was a significant amount of leaves which had fallen from the trees due to the season. These leaves may have covered or concealed smaller pieces of litter. We also limited the collection of litter to that which lay in the streets or on the sidewalks. Plenty of litter existed in the lawns and private property in the neighborhoods we sampled, but we could not account for that in our study.
The efforts of others in the community to prevent litter may have had some additional influence. For instance, during our sample period, a local service fraternity/sorority sponsored a city-wide litter pick-up. That may have decreased the amount of litter that was available for us to collect. Additionally, Olivia Campbell has observed a worker on foot collecting trash in the commercial district, and this worker stated that she worked for the City of Oxford. However, we contacted the City of Oxford office, and according to the City Manager, such a worker does not exist.
In the initial vision of our project, we hypothesized that there was in fact a significant litter problem in the City of Oxford, primarily in the student areas. Although analysis of our data shows that, indeed, the Homestead area had approximately three times the amount of litter in the other sample areas, we reject our hypothesis concerning the amount of litter in Oxford overall. We feel, after reviewing our data, that there was not as much litter as expected.
When we constructed our original lab proposal, we stated that if we found litter to be a significant problem in the Oxford area, we intended to submit a formal proposal to the City Council. Such a proposal would include our data and analysis thereof, followed by a request for action by the City of Oxford to combat the problem. This request would include some solutions that we had researched over the course of the semester, include improved recycling programs.
After acknowledging the implications of our data, we feel that such a proposal is unnecessary. Furthermore, the City currently provides regular garbage and recycling pickup for its residents.
Another obstacle in such a proposal exists in the attitudes behind litter and its occurrence. These attitudes would make it difficult to launch and effect solutions. People litter because they don’t care for their environment, because it is convenient, because they do not have available appropriate disposal methods; in addition, some litter travels out of trash and recycling containers, when residents had sincerely meant to dispose of it appropriately. The City of Oxford provides appropriate disposal methods by regular trash/recycling collection as well as the provision of trash and recycling cans throughout the business district. The more personal attitudes of Oxford residents which provoke them to litter would be difficult to address through a City-sponsored program.
We conclude, then, that although litter is, indeed, more prevalent in student areas, it is not a significant problem in the Oxford area.
b. In the Literature Review portion of this report, we mentioned some of the documented actions of other programs which have explored and attacked the phenomenon of litter. Our project, we feel, has pertinent social relevance concerning our own cultural influences as well as those experienced by the entire world. Of course, we cared about the project because we have been exposed to the increasing worldwide consciousness of environmental issues. Our very concern over our own project is rooted in the ecological awareness that is present in our culture. In various science classes since grade school, in the news and other media, in our communities, we have constantly been urged to direct our attention to conservation and other matter related to nature and its endangerment.
We are still curious about the efforts made by the City of Oxford to collect litter. One matter which remains an enigma is whether or not Oxford facilitates a litter pick-up program. We have heard rumors of a mysterious litter collector in the uptown area, but we were not able to get through the red tape with the City of Oxford, which gives us no indication this this person even exists.
Although we decided against the overall petition to the City of Oxford, we were confronted with the idea of student attitudes during examination of the phenomenon of litter in the community. We will remain conscious of the difficulty to cause a transformation of attitude en masse, and until then we will take notice of any efforts which attempt such a feat.
c. As far as further investigation, we recommend that anyone concerned with the phenomenon of litter in the City of Oxford conduct a more extensive study. Our sample size and time period was limited due to the constraints of the project and our abilities as researchers. To adequately and accurately study whether or not Oxford truly has a litter problem, a more careful examination of different neighborhoods and districts is necessary. Furthermore, further research must designate a method of accounting for all the litter present in private yards and property that may not be collected in a project which strictly samples sidewalks and streets.

Timeline:
September 9-student generated lab brain storming
September 13-group meeting to determine the student generated lab
September 28-group meeting to write up student generated lab(due September 30)
October 7- in-class brain storming for lab
October 20- group meeting for finishing touches on student generated lab(due October 21)
October 28-begin collecting trash on our four designated streets
November 1-collect trash on four designated streets
November 2-group meeting to prepare for in-class lab discussion
November 4-collect trash on four designated streets
November 8-collect trash on four designated streets
November 11-collect trash on four designated streets
November 15-collect trash on four designated streets
November 18- collect trash on four designated streets
November 22-collect trash on four designated streets
December 1-weigh trash and make charts recording data; group meeting to prepare lab packet and presentation for class
December 2-in-class presentation
December 8-group meeting to work on final lab packet(due December 11)

Works cited:
Glenn, Jim. "The State of Garbage in America." BioCycle. Apr.1998: 32-43.
Going Green: How To Reduce Your Garbage. [United States]: Rhea Productions, n.d.
Going Green: How to Reduce Your Garbage. Videocassette. Rhea Productions, 1991. 22 min.
Goldstein, Jerome. "All Kinds of Recycling Conversations." BioCycle. Sep. 1997: 4.
Our Fragile Earth. [United States]: Educational Satellite Network, n.d. Society, 1992. 23 min.
Our Fragile Earth: Recycling. Videocassette. Beth Pike and Stephen Hudnell, Education Satellite Network/Missouri, Environmental Resources Improvement and Energy Authority, 1991. 16 min.
Recycling: The Endless cycle. Videocassette. National Geographic
Recycling: Waste into Wealth. Videocassette. Bullfrog Films, 1985. 29 min.
Rochfort, Christopher. "An Australian Perspective on Recycling Organic Materials." BioCycle Apr. 1998: 74-75.
"Youth Corps Helps with Waste Reduction." BioCycle. Mar. 1998: 52.

Other Sources:
Bielefeldt, Talbot. “Give Us Your Tires, Your Coors Cans...” Sierra. v74n2 Mar 1989. p. 74- 77

“Cleanup Spurs Revitalization.” The American City and Country. v110n12 Nov 1995. p. 6
“Deciding What to Disclose.” U.S. News and World Report. v115n17 Nov 1, 1993. p. 68
Michael, Monica. “Start a Community Garden.” Country Living. v21n8 Aug 1998. p. 22
Schonfled, Erick. “Green Firms Try to Clean Up.” Fortune v130n5 Sep 5, 1994. p.18
Vincent, Gary. “Warp Up the Garbage with Surplus Corn.” Successful Farming. v86n14 Dec 1988. p. 50

West, Woody. “Clean Up Your Room, American West.” Insight on the News. v6n33 Aug 13, 1990. p. 64

“Whose Trash Is It?” Sea Frontiers. v39n6 Nov 1993. p.6

Next Article
Previous Article
Return to the Topic Menu


Here is a list of responses that have been posted to this Study...

Important: Press the Browser Reload button to view the latest contribution.

Respond to this Submission!

IMPORTANT: For each Response, make sure the title of the response is different than previous titles shown above!

Response Title:
Author(s):

E-Mail:
Optional: For Further Info on this Topic, Check out this WWW Site:
Response Text:



Article complete. Click HERE to return to the Natural Systems Menu.