skip to content



We’ve seen a huge amount of progress in departments, Colleges and buildings during our 'Spotlight on Reduce and Reuse' month, here are just some of our highlights.

Clean and green at the University Library

These new cleaning products are cutting down on aerosols, reducing packaging waste, and saving on transport to our site

The cleaning team at the University Library is responsible for the care and upkeep of over 45,000 square metres of Grade 2 listed building.

A recent exercise to align cleaning practices with the latest advice on the care and preservation of historic books and manuscripts has also identified opportunities to significantly reduce the environmental impact of the team’s activities.

Aerosol cleaning products are still widely used. The propellant gases that aerosols emit alongside their active contents belong to a category of chemicals known as Volatile Organic Compounds, or VOCs. In addition to being powerful greenhouse gases, it has been demonstrated that VOCs actively attack and degrade both paper and parchment. The effects are minor in the short term but as custodians of documents that are routinely many hundreds of years old, and with an obligation to ensure they are still intact many hundreds of years in the future, the University Library deems even the most marginal improvement in storage conditions worth pursuing.

After a series of trials, the team successfully identified alternative products for all the tasks previously accomplished with aerosols. The new products (specifically the Proctor and Gamble, ‘Flash Professional’ family of cleaning chemicals) are also delivered in concentrate form and mixed on site for use in reusable bottles, with the following environmental benefits:

  • Elimination of VOC/greenhouse gas emissions from aerosol cleaning products
  • Reduction in single-use packaging waste (both aerosols and single-use plastic bottles)
  • Reduction in carbon emissions caused by the transport of concentrated chemicals which are now delivered less frequently and mixed on site.

Aerosol products for cleaning purposes increasingly seem like a wasteful anachronism. If you would like any advice on eliminating aerosol product use in your own buildings the University Library’s Deputy Facilities Manager Simon Halliday would be happy to help, get in touch and we'll put you in contact!

University Catering Service tries a new approach to reusable cup incentives

As part of an ongoing process to reduce waste, the University Catering Service (UCS) decided to change their cup discounts in cafes. Originally, a customer would receive a 25p discount on their hot drink order if they provided their own reusable coffee cup at the till. While this is a good initiative, around only 10% of hot drink sales were discounted meaning only 10% of customers were remembering their own reusable cup. So, the UCS decided to change this to charging for a disposable cup. Coffee baseline prices have been lowered to compensate (so the discount is effectively already in place), and if a customer requires a disposable cup, they are charged an extra 25p. UCS hopes that this will become more of an incentive for customers to bring their own reusable cups in order to reduce waste across their cafes.

The University Counselling Service weigh in with continued recycling success

The University Counselling Service have just sent off an incredible 15kg of pens through their pen recycling scheme with another 15kg ready to go. They’ve been told they can’t send through anymore until January 2020 as they’ve been inundating Terracycle with the amount they’ve been recycling! Since moving to the Student Services building, UCS have also started collecting crisp packets for recycling with a whopping 6kg ready and waiting to be recycled.

Tradition makes way for sustainability at Magdalene College

Helen Williams, Academic Registrar at Magdalene College, celebrates as the College has gone almost entirely paperless for undergraduate admissions this year. Previously every application was printed four times but this year in an effort to improve their environmental impact, the College is only printing one copy for the file. Each application is around 20 pages, so with 400 applications that is a staggering 24,000 sheets of paper saved through a simple change!

Education and awareness: Clare College host recycling seminar

At the request of the College’s Environment Committee, Clare College invited Jon Crisp from Amey Cespa, who manage waste from residents of the city of Cambridge, to come and speak to staff. Despite the poor weather, many turned up to learn about why we need to be recycling, as well as the importance of reducing the amount of waste that we produce in total. Jon took the audience through data including the proportion of waste that goes to landfill, what happens in an Amey Cespa plant and what this means for residents of Cambridge in terms of what goes in which bin.

Send us your examples of reducing and re-using!

While our 'spotlight' month is now over, we still love to hear your stories and case studies of how you've cut down on waste in your department or Colleges. Get in touch to let us know what you've been up to!

Read more about reducing waste: