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Voluntary project: Waste audit of University departments | Status: Completed | Date: 2015

Person: Ten students from various colleges and departments | Supervisor: Dr Edmund Tanner

Project summary: Sorting and analysis of the content of landfill waste bins from nine university departments. Bin contents were categorised by material to gain a deeper understanding of what is being thrown away. Levels of potentially recyclable material were then determined. The project followed up a longitudinal study that has been running since the 1990s. 

Key findings: Overall, 42% of the material in the general waste bins could have been recycled. There were great disparities between departments in terms of the levels and nature of recyclable waste. Click here for a full report.


  • Food waste should be disposed of in a separate bin (for anaerobic digestion) rather than the general waste bin.
  • There is great potential for increased recycling of plastic.
  • Efforts to improve recycling levels should be tailored to the requirements of different departments, since they were highly specific in terms of the waste being produced.
  • Recycling levels can be raised through: 
    • Clear bin labelling;
    • A high number of large, clearly and consistently coloured recycling bins;
    • Waste and recycling bins in close proximity 

How has it been used? A detailed understanding of the bin contents of different departments is valuable for trying to determine where and how recycling levels can be improved. The audit is an important first step in a longer-term plan to raise recycling levels to 95% across the university by the end of 2016.