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Using choice architecture to exploit a university Distinct Urban Mine

Pierron, Xavier; Williams, Ian D.; Shaw, Peter J.; Cleaver, Victoria


Ian D. Williams

Peter J. Shaw

Victoria Cleaver


There are widespread concerns regarding the potential future scarcity of ferrous and non-ferrous materials. However, there are already potentially rich reserves of secondary materials via high ownership of Electrical and Electronic Equipment (EEE) in economically-developed nations. Young people are particularly high consumers of EEE, thus university students and campuses may present an opportunity to harness this potential. University Distinct Urban Mines (DUM) may be used to exemplify how potential reserves of secondary metals may be exploited, and could contribute to the transition from a linear to a circular economy. This study aimed to evaluate small household appliances (SHA) DUM from a UK university, with the objectives to identify and quantify student households’ SHA ownership, WEEE recycling, stockpiling and discarding habits amongst student households, assess and evaluate the monetary potential of SHA DUM at UK level, and propose methods to exploit DUM for universities in the UK. To this purpose, a quantitative survey was undertaken to measure students’ ownership and discarding behaviour with respect to SHA. The amounts of ferrous and non-ferrous materials were then estimated and converted to monetary values from secondary materials market data to appraise the SHA DUM overall value. Thirty-five per cent of SHA are discarded in the general refuse. Broken personal care appliances (PCA) tend to be discarded due to hygiene and small size factors. When in working order, SHA tend to be equally reused, recycled or stockpiled. We conclude that a total of 189 tonnes of ferrous and non-ferrous materials were available via discarding or being stockpiled at the University of Southampton. Extrapolated to UK higher education level, discarded and stockpiled SHA represent a potential worth ∼USD 11 million. To initiate DUM exploitation within Higher Education campuses, we suggest improving users’ choice architecture by providing collection methods specific to broken SHA.


Pierron, X., Williams, I. D., Shaw, P. J., & Cleaver, V. (2017). Using choice architecture to exploit a university Distinct Urban Mine. Waste Management, 68, 547-556.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jun 18, 2017
Online Publication Date Jun 29, 2017
Publication Date 2017-06
Deposit Date Mar 25, 2019
Journal Waste Management
Print ISSN 0956-053X
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 68
Pages 547-556
Keywords Choice architecture, Distinct urban mine, University students, WEEE, Secondary materials, Monetary potential,
Public URL