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Upcoming changes to what happens to the University’s waste

  • The University’s non-hazardous waste contract is changing over to Mountain Recycling who will deliver a zero waste to landfill service.
  • They will provide a two stream collection service (down from 4 currently), limiting the number of trips required in order to minimise vehicle related emissions - main collection will be via electric vehicle.
  • Each site will have a number of 240L food bins and 1100L non-food waste bins, where all recyclable and general waste will be collected in a single stream to be sorted at the Materials Recovery Facility (MRF). 
  • The technology and 10KM long screening conveyor belt at the MRF allows for a greater % of material to be sorted for recycling (85% target), including 2D and 3D positive selection of materials and screening of those traditionally hard to recycle plastics, for example, Tetra Pak and coloured plastics. 
  • Food waste will be taken to an anaerobic digestion facility and turned into biogas and nutrient-rich organic fertiliser.  
  • The small amount of materials which cannot be recycled, will be recovered and make their way to cement factories in the UK to be used as coal replacement fuels. 
  • Our new stock of bins are first in class, made from 100% recycled plastic.  
  • New signage will be provided to make it very clear what can go in each bin.


The University's Overarching aim

To minimise and actively manage waste through elimination, reduction, reuse and recycling.

Targets in our current strategy

  • To send zero non-hazardous waste to landfill by 2020.

  • To achieve continuous year-on-year reductions in waste arising per FTE staff and students.

  • To recycle at least 95% of total waste produced at the University by 2016.

What happens to the University's waste?

The University's main waste contractor is Veolia (formerly Mick George Ltd), who collect most waste streams from most University buildings (the Colleges have separate arrangements for waste, while another exception is departments embedded in Addenbrookes Hospital). In line with the University's target of sending zero waste to landfill, Veolia have committed to ensuring zero to landfill. 
The waste streams you're likely to find in your University building are:
  • Dry mixed recycling bins accept all types of paper, card, books and magazines, as well as most plastics (containers and bottles - clean and dry only), tins and cans.
  • General waste bins (formerly landfill) take non-recyclables such as wood, plastic wrapping and polystyrene, paper towels and mixed materials items (like crisp packets), as well as food-contaminated items.
  • Food waste bins are available in buildings which produce sufficient volumes of food waste. It's suitable for compostables but, unlike your food bin at home, you shouldn't put paper towels in it.
  • A glass recycling stream is also available. Please avoid putting glass into other waste streams.
  • Separate waste collection systems exist for e-wastebatteriesink and toner cartridgesand hazardous, chemical and clinical waste. These items should never go into the recycling or general waste bins.

Our waste A-Z has a more detailed list of what to dispose of where.

Single Use items

Did you know that 97% of the University's waste comes from single-use items? Reducing the amount of these items we use will cut our impact on the environment, and cut down on the waste we generate. 

Picture of plastic packet with Single Out logoOur Single Out campaign

We've carried out research to find the top single-use items in use at the University and how we can reduce them. Read more on our 'Single Out' campaign


What can you do to help cut waste and recycle at the University?

The University's Waste & Recycling Strategy sets out three guiding principles that staff should take when managing the University’s resources, and the practices and policies which should be adopted by University departments, faculties and institutes to support these. Below is guidance on how you, and your department or institution, can support these principles.

Eliminate and reduce waste at source 

Eliminating and reducing waste at source is the first guiding principle in the University’s Waste Strategy. This should be our top waste priority as it means reducing the amount of resources which are used in the first place, and therefore minimising sources of waste as well as the need for new items

Reducing waste: Guidance and checklist for University institutions

Reuse resources before disposing of them 

The second guiding principle of the University’s Waste Strategy is all about repurposing resources prior to disposal. It can include refurbishment, reuse outside of the University (for instance through ‘take back’ schemes for packaging and other consumables), or reuse inside of the University (for instance donating unwanted but usable items to other departments).

Re-using resources: Guidance and checklist for University institutions

Make sure your waste is recycled 

The third guiding principle of the University’s Waste Strategy is to ensure waste is disposed of in a way which facilitates recycling. Recycling of waste means turning it into a new substance or product.  

Improving recycling: Guidance and cheklist for University Institutions

How much waste does your department or building generate?

You can now see how much waste your University department or building disposes every month, across all non-hazardous waste streams, using our waste data portal on Tableau. This draws on data from the University's main commercial waste contractor Veolia (formerly Mick George), so displays data from any building served by that contract.

An example of the data available in the Tableau waste portal

Take further action

If you've read the guidance above but are still looking for ideas, there are many more small but impactful actions you can take in your department to reduce waste, increase recycling and create a culture of sustainability. Green Impact is the University's environmental awards scheme, and provides departments and Colleges with a framework for action. The Environment & Energy Section can also offer further advice and guidance on recycling, or a 'waste and recycling audit' to help you identify simple areas for improvement. Feel free to get in touch if you have any questions about improving recycling in your workplace.