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November will be our Spotlight on Reduce and Reuse month so to give you some inspiration for action, and to celebrate what we’ve already achieved, we’ve put together some of our top examples of reduction and reuse from across the University.

Reducing paper use: a simple route to sustainability improvements 

Just under 90% of waste by weight in the University’s recycling bins is paper or card, while a further 7% by weight of the general waste bins is paper and card that has been incorrectly disposed of. This amounts to many hundreds if not thousands of tonnes of paper being disposed of every year.

Fortunately, we’ve seen some great initiatives to save paper across the University, including upcycling scrap paper into notebooks in Cambridge Archaeological Unit (pictured above) and envelope recycling at Meet Cambridge. Other Green Impact teams have gone for the shock-and-awe approach, visibly showing just how much paper departments and buildings are currently using. As part of a towering paper awareness display in the reception of Greenwich House, staff were asked to guess how many sheets of paper (200,000!) the building uses per month and the number of trees that are cut down annually (298) to meet this demand. At the start of the project a whiteboard clearly outlined steps staff could take to help reduce the amount of paper used, and after the project, the same whiteboard displayed the fantastic news that staff had collectively reduced their paper usage by the equivalent of 24 full grown trees each year!

 Elsewhere in the University, one of our Environment & Energy Coordinators has demonstrated that some of the most effective changes can stem from the simplest of ideas:

“For years we have asked our MPhil students to hand in hard, plastic-bound copies of their essays. This equates to roughly 8 printed essays per student per year. Last year we received approximately 680 MPhil essays. We are thrilled to be able to say that this year, all of our MPhil students will be submitting electronic copies only which will significantly reduce paper and plastic waste as well as faculty and student costs from posting, printing and shredding. We will also be setting up an online essay archive to replace hard copies of essays going to the MML library.” – April McIntyre

These are just a handful of the paper-saving actions going on at the University so email us for more case study examples or to share your own paper-saving success stories!

The University Catering Service takes action to reduce waste 

Environment and Energy works closely with the University Catering Service on making their business more sustainable. As outlined in their Sustainable Food Policy, one of their areas of action is to reduce waste. While an initial focus was on recycling, a more recent development has been to reuse and reduce waste entirely. Some measures include:

  • China plates, cups and metal cutlery have been introduced where possible to reduce the amount of waste caused by customers who are eating in.
  • Customers are encouraged to use a KeepCup or their own reusable coffee cup. Those who use a disposable cup will now be charged 25p (which used to be offered as a discount to those who used their KeepCup). So far, 21,000 KeepCups have been sold, and 121,000 discounted hot drinks have been sold to customers with KeepCups.
  • Cooking oil is collected from UCS sites, which is then recycled into biofuel.
  • Coffee grounds are collected from UCS sites and turned into coffee logs which are available for sale from bio-bean. 
  • Water refill stations are provided in all UCS cafes and customers are encouraged to use these facilities to reduce single use bottle and plastic cup waste.
  • UCS also uses compostable cutlery, plates and cups instead of plastic as it can be anaerobically digested. This has saved over 2.5 million otherwise plastic items entering landfill.

UCS have also successfully managed to reduce their food waste, which is collected and weighed by Mick George. Data from August 2017– March 2019 shows that while there has been an increase in overall food waste collections from around the University, UCS collections have slightly reduced, with a 6% reduction in food waste from the last 6 months compared to the first 6 months of monitoring.

Furniture successes

A common waste stream what contributes significantly to the University’s £1.4m annual bill for waste disposal is that of furniture disposal. Fortunately however, the University provides a simple option for internal re-use of not just furniture, but other common re-usable waste streams like stationary, equipment and lab consumables. WarpIt has been in existence at the University for over 4 years, however it’s really taken off over the last few months! As more people use WarpIt to advertise items they no longer need, this helps generate a real community for re-use within the University – it’s estimated that around £150,000 in savings have been generated in the last 2 years alone! Check out our two recent case studies of the successes of WarpIt, including the Biochemistry’s archive room fit-out and the Investment Office’s furniture conundrum.

Read more about reducing waste: