UM separates paper, plastic and general waste in all buildings. The aim is to minimise how much waste we produce and to separate the remaining waste for recycling as much as possible: ‘Use less. Recycle the rest.’
What does waste sorting within UM entail?
Waste bins consisting of three compartments are placed in central locations, such as hallways, break rooms and catering locations. The blue compartment is for paper, orange for plastic waste (including metals and drink cartons), and grey for general waste. Organic waste will not yet be collected across the entire campus as the amount is not sufficient (yet) for a sustainable separate waste flow.
The familiar old waste bins in the workplace and classrooms are a thing of the past. There is still a wastepaper container in the workplace, staff can empty it themselves into the centrally located bins in or outside the buiding.
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Why separate waste?
UM students and staff produce about 20 kilos of commercial waste per student per year. In a circular economy, waste is no longer an unwanted and unavoidable end product of consumption, but a valuable raw material. Waste prevention, separation and recycling are in line with UM’s ambition to become a sustainable university.
UM has agreed with waste collector PreZero to increase the recycling rate from 37% in 2019 to 55% by 2026. Meeting this target will make a significant contribution to reducing UM’s carbon footprint.
Collection of metal cans
The government has enacted new rules for metal can collection, with the rules for commercial waste differing from those for household waste.
On 1 April, a deposit was introduced on metal cans. You can hand in metal cans with a deposit logo at the supermarket or at the other collection points. Hand in your metal cans with a deposit logo to get a discount at Eurest Campus.
The government expects the impact of the deposit on metal cans to be significant and the proportion of litter to decrease accordingly. Companies are no longer allowed to collect metal cans with other PMD waste since the introduction on 1 January 2023 of the Extended Producer Responsibility (UPV), which pertains to the collection of plastic, drinks cartons and glass from businesses.
The essence of the UPV is that the manufacturer of a product, or whoever distributes it, is responsible for the entire lifetime of that product. This means that the Dutch government holds producers and importers of plastic packaging, drinks cartons and glass responsible for the ‘waste phase’ of the products they produce, and they have to help pay for their collection and processing. Producers and importers are required to make a financial contribution to the Waste Fund so that collection becomes free of charge for disposers, such as UM. The collection of plastic and drinks cartons for businesses has therefore been free of charge since 1 January 2023. Because of the deposit scheme mentioned earlier, metal can manufacturers do not participate in the Waste Fund. This is the reason why metal cans no longer go with plastic and drinks cartons.
In conclusion, you can no longer dispose of metal cans with plastic and drinks cartons at UM.
If you still have metal cans without a deposit logo that you want to dispose of, you should do so with UM’s general waste. In most cases, the metal cans will still be separated when the general waste is processed, so that the raw material is not lost to incineration.
Proper waste separation is one of the steps towards a circular economy. The higher the quality of our waste, the more environmental gain. According to a calculation by CE Delft, the CO2 emission reductions from plastic recycling are a net 1.2 kg CO2-equivalent per kg of recycled plastic. In 2017, 37,000 kg of plastic waste were collected at UM. To illustrate, a recycling rate of 80% would yield emission reductions for 2017 equivalent to 3% of UM’s electricity consumption, or seven petrol cars per year. This goes to show that proper waste separation definitely contributes to our sustainability goals.
- Rabbe Dormans, UM Sustainability advisor
What happens to the separated waste?
Old paper is turned into new paper. Paper and cardboard can be reused many times over, making it the main raw material for new paper and cardboard in the Netherlands. Reuse saves raw materials: every tonne of recycled paper saves 15 trees.
Collecting plastic and drinks cartons also pays off. The plastic is the raw material of new products such as fleece clothing, tennis balls and new packaging. Because no new plastic is needed for these products, fewer fossil resources are needed and energy use and CO2 emissions are reduced. For example, a 60 W bulb can burn for six hours from the energy saved by recycling one plastic bottle.
Drinks cartons are recycled separately, resulting in the recovery of paper, plastic and aluminium.
On 1 April 2023, a deposit was introduced on metal cans. As a result, metal cans will eventually disappear from our waste stream. Metal cans can be recycled endlessly, which costs as much as 20 times less energy than producing them.
General waste goes to the incinerator.
You can find more information on other waste streams such as hazardous waste, old equipment (electronic waste) or wooden pallets at myUM (login required).