A Waste Separation Campaign for International Students in Groningen – A blog by Ningna Xie

Exploring the Role of Communication in Municipal Waste Management: A Waste Separation Campaign for International Students in Groningen

Blog by Ninga Xie

Student Hanzehogeschool Groningen

Managing municipal solid waste is becoming a global challenge. Unseparated waste is detrimental to our living environment and restraining our willingness to build up sustainable communities. Sorting household waste is an essential step for citizens to experience how recyclable garbage enter their recycling streams.

I represented Professorship Communication, Behaviour and the Sustainable Society (CBSS) as a communication campaign consultant to Gemeente Groningen (The Municipality of Groningen). As the municipality is heading toward the goal of making Groningen a waste-free city by 2025, involving international students in a waste separation campaign is aligned with the Sustainable Development Goal of building sustainable cities and the idea of Groningen internationalization. My graduation assignment follows the design research structure, and it provides a clear overview on how the municipality can inform international students about the waste separation policy and increase their knowledge regarding paper, glass and textile waste.

Working with CBSS researchers provides me an enlightening outlook into social-behavioral changes in the field of waste management. I sincerely appreciate all the support by means of quality control on the research process and the discussion hours for theoretical support and creative ideas. Thanks to CBSS, I managed to enrich my knowledge specifically about gamification and social psychology in relation to the communication of pro-environmental campaigns. Such an inspirational experience helped me to make up my mind to further discover pro-environmental effort and the relevant businesses, policymakers, and foreigners in sustainability transition.

During this project, I communicated with international students from conducting the survey questionnaires to designing the professional products throughout the design research; collaborated with SSH Housing and made full use of direct contact with student residents in two flats of shared accommodation. The struggle of insufficient waste separation can be seen in the lack of consistent information shared to international students, lack of influence sharing between local waste-sorting campaigns, as well as the recycling facility in student flats (High-rise buildings) do not match the general waste separation guideline for general households (Low-rise houses).

Behind the interaction with all stakeholders, Professorship CBSS is the place that I always come with well-prepared questions and different plans for discussions. There is no doubt that these unforgettable moments contribute to the success of this assignment, as well as affirming my professional attitudes and skills in real-life experience of product development.

It was both a challenge and a great joy in my assignment as I chose to create a reduction effect on the perceived excessive effort needed for sorting waste, which international students often struggle with. My campaign concept “Sort & Drop” represents the two simple actions needed for waste separation. Two products were included in this waste separation campaign. First, the video depicts waste separation in a student flat from the fun and educative side. Second, the infographic functions as a complete offline guideline that is aligned with the municipality’s recycling policy; contains the do’s, don’ts and tips of waste separation. With thorough implementation and evaluation of this campaign, we believe that waste separation information can be brought closer to international students in the most accessible and favored ways. Moreover, in an inviting, precise and practical way, with a hint of humor and acknowledging the known difficulties, international students can learn about what, how and where they can do their best to sort waste in Groningen.

Waste separation as a crucial part of municipal waste management requires awareness and cooperation on every level of our society. All the inspirational support from Professorship CBSS made me more passionate about defining a constructive vision to think, plan and make our city more clean, comfortable and efficient on the matter of household garbage.

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