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Each year a number of Green Impact teams go for an ‘Excellence’ award. This special award is only available to Green Impact teams who have previously won a ‘Gold’ award or higher, and encourages teams to solve a particular sustainability problem in their department. Given the huge amount of waste that we produce, it is no surprise that all four of the Excellence projects submitted this year related to waste reduction and recycling. In July we reported on two of the teams, their projects focused on lab wastes. This month we focus on the other two ‘Excellence’ award-winners last year – the University Library and the University Counselling Service.

Changing the waste system – University Library

You would think that putting recyclable items into the correct bin would be an easy thing to do, but sometimes what you can recycle at home may be different from what you can recycle at work, and that can cause confusion. We know that not everyone in the University knows what goes in which bin, as each week 6 tonnes of recyclable waste (the weight of an elephant!) is placed in the general waste bin. This figure was higher in the past (19 tonnes), so we are heading in the right direction, but a lot more needs to be done.

The University Library Green Impact team (pictured left) recognised this need and set out to improve recycling rates in their building. The first thing the team did was to educate staff on what could and could not be recycled, this was done in person and through the staff intranet. Then, recognising that consistent labelling and convenient bin locations are key to good recycling behaviour, five trial areas were chosen and new bins for Recycling, Food and General Waste were installed. Each bin was clearly labelled and bins purchased had changeable inserts, which could be updated should the recycling requirements change.

Since submitting their Excellence project in April, the team have gone on to educate and install new bins at their site in Ely and across the wider University Library building. Monitoring is ongoing and there has been a steady decline in the amount of waste going to the General Waste bin since the team made their changes. At the start of the project 75% of the UL’s waste collected by Mick George was collected in General Waste bins, in July 2018 that figure had decreased to 59%, and in August 2018 a sizable change was seen as only 22% of UL’s waste was disposed of in General Waste bins!

The Green Libraries Green Impact team have signed up to participate in Green Impact again this year and we cannot wait to see what they will do.


Collecting pens to do good – The University Counselling Service

Pens are in plentiful supply in our University, but did you know that they can be recycled at the end of their life? In 2016/17 the University Counselling Service (UCS) set up a pen recycling scheme, with funds raised from sale of this recycled product being donated to a local charity chosen by the UCS –Centre33.

While the UCS (pictured top right receiving their Excellence Award) were using many pens themselves thanks to the nature of their work, they were not content to limit their initiative within their own department. Last year UCS set out to expand their pen recycling initiative into a University-wide collection, which now receives hundreds of pens each month. Over the course of their Excellence project, the team managed to convince 11 University departments (pictured David Attenborough Building) and buildings to join the scheme, and there is now a network of staff collecting pens and returning them to UCS. There is also a new pen collection point in the Scott Polar Museum which is open to the public along with a collection point in the Central Cambridge Public Library. Through their hard work and dedication the team have engaged not only departments in the challenge of recycling, but also the wider city population.


Would you like to improve the environmental performance of where you work, just like the teams described above? Why not speak to your colleagues or classmates and see if Green Impact might be something for you. We are happy to speak to all interested departments.