Developing the public understanding of the science and engineering of sustainable waste management

Lead Research Organisation: University of Southampton
Department Name: Faculty of Engineering & the Environment


Sustainable waste management can make a major contribution to reducing energy consumption and hence greenhouse gas emissions, and to resource conservation. However, the approach must be rational and scientific, and messages to the public must be clear and unequivocal. Public understanding of the science and principles behind sustainable waste management is essential if they are to play their part; raising awareness of the scientific basis of waste management will also help to persuade able and committed individuals to enter the industry. The 21st World Scout Jamboree will be held at Hylands Park, Chelmsford, Essex in the summer of 2007. It will mark the centenary of scouting and will be attended by over 40,000 scouts and organisers from almost every country in the world. For two weeks, the Jamboree site will be the second largest town in Essex, and the event represents an immense opportunity to educate tomorrow's leaders in the need for, and the science and engineering behind, the responsible management of waste. This proposal aims to develop a range of activities and materials for use at the 2007 World Scout Jamboree that will help convey an understanding of the science and engineering that underpin sustainable waste management. We will also use this experience as a feasibility study for the development of further materials and activities that can be used in a similar way at other large scale events (e.g. music festivals) of this nature.


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Description A display about waste management, a questionnaire and a waste sorting competition were arranged for the World Scout Jamboree. The display was attended by 800 participants from 40 different countries, included scouts aged 13-15 years (45%), 16-19 years (48%) and scout leaders aged 18-71 years (7%); 80 scouts took part in the sorting competition.

Results showed that reuse and recycling was already being carried out at home by 88% participants. In evaluating the perceived knowledge gained from the activities, 55% of participants said they now knew more, and 15% of participants said they now knew much more, about waste reuse and recycling than they did before they came to the Jamboree,

More than half of participants who completed the questionnaire said they would now reuse and recycle more than they did before, demonstrating a potential change in future behaviour due to knowledge gained from the activity. Of the 12% of participants that did not already reuse or recycle at home, 56% said they would now reuse and recycle more, or lots more, in the future.

In terms of the EPSRC public engagement programme objectives, the project succeeded in stimulating the scouts' interest in waste management through the display which introduced them to the concepts of waste and resource management and the science/reasoning behind it. The results from monitoring of the activities show an increase in knowledge and a change in behaviour reflecting how inspired the participants were to change after completing the waste management activity.
Sectors Environment

Description Valpak Ltd Recycle more 
Organisation Translink (Belfast)
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
Start Year 2007
Description Wiggly Wigglers 
Organisation Wiggly Wigglers
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
Start Year 2007