Recycling at College – where are we and what more can we all do?

In 2020-21, the College produced around 723 tonnes of waste.  Of that, 448 tonnes could be classed as domestic waste which encompasses: 248 tonnes mixed recycling (orange bins); 184 tonnes of non-recyclable (black bins); 10 tonnes of food waste (green bins); 6 tonnes glass recycling; with the remaining 275 tonnes coming from construction wastes. 

In this blog, we’ll focus on our domestic waste – the waste we are all responsible for at our campuses.

As we’ve said, we produced 448 tonnes of waste in 2020/21, of which 248 was mixed recycling – which gives us an on-campus recycling rate of about 59%, which doesn’t seem that high. 

However, the story doesn’t end when our bins are collected.   Both our mixed recycling and non-recyclables are taken to a Material Recovery Facility (MRF) where they are sorted and processed further. 

Around 90% of our mixed recycling is recovered and goes into the recyclate marketplace where it is used to create more plastics.  Around 60% of the non-recyclable waste is also recovered in this way.

Our food waste is collected and taken to an anaerobic digestor.  There it is converted into gas which is in turn burnt which generates heat and electricity, and the leftover can be used as a soil conditioner.  Glass is either recycled or used as aggregate and little or none will end up in landfill.   

However, the key stat here is 60% of our non-recyclates are also recovered and reused. This means we are not getting it right at our end.  If all our waste was sorted properly on campus, then recovery rates would be nearer 100% for the mixed recycling and almost zero for non-recyclables.  So, it’s vital that we all follow the guidance on the bins and separate our waste correctly.  Not always as simple as it sounds, but contamination is a major problem, so please do your best.

Recycling at home

Zero Waste Scotland have a new marketing campaign – video link here

As well as on campus, it’s also vital that we all recycle effectively at home too, and to help with that, Zero Waste Scotland has launched an online Recycling Sorter tool to help you find out what should be recycled within your local authority waste collections..

The Waste Hierarchy

At this point, we must highlight the Waste Hierarchy.  Recycling is not the first thing we should think of when manage waste – preventing it in the first place and reuse sit above recycling in the hierarchy. 

In recent years the Circular Economy approach has become increasingly prevalent as the way forward.   This takes the waste hierarchy further and ensures that all traditional notions of ‘waste’ are designed out.  Whilst this is not always easy – it is definitely the future and the Scottish Government has clearly outlined its support for a more circular approach. 

We should all think about consuming less and consider finding out more about the lifespan of materials we use every day.