Class Year


Document Type

Student Research Paper

Date of Creation

Spring 2023

Department 1

Environmental Studies


We implemented a plastic shipping bag recycling program at Gettysburg College. Recycling bags contribute towards contamination within the college's single-stream recycling or end up directly in the landfill via traditional trash collection. The production of plastic bags relies on the continued production of fossil fuel extraction. Plastic bag recycling can decrease fossil fuel extraction and waste entering landfills. To curb Gettysburg College’s generation of waste, we placed four bins in various locations throughout the Center Union Building (CUB) in order to collect plastic shipping bags over a 4.5-week period. We made three hypotheses: that our bins would collect shipping bags and be used by Gettysburg College students, that different locations of the bins would impact their usage, and that over time contamination would decrease and desired product collected would increase. We collected 215 plastic bags, which represented 9.53% of the total amount of plastic shipping picked-up from the mailroom. Placing bins closer to the mailroom and away from dining areas reduced contamination and increased shipping bag collection. We did not find support that over time contamination would decrease and desired product increase. We hope this project will guide future policies to increase recycling of plastic shipping bags.


Written for ES 400: Seminar.

Finalist for a 2023 AASHE Sustainability Award in the Campus Sustainability Research category, recognizing outstanding scholarship in higher education.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 4.0 License.