At UM waste is separated in all buildings. Paper, plastic and general waste is collected in separate bins. Our goal is to shrink general waste flows to the bare minimum, and our motto is: 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, but staff empty it themselves into the centrally located bins.
Why sort waste?
Students and staff at UM each produce around 20 kg of general waste. UM no longer sees waste as an undesirable and unavoidable end product of consumption, but as a valuable raw material. Waste sorting and recycling are in line with UM’s ambition to be a green university by 2030.
A vision that focuses on sustainability calls for the so-called ‘cradle-to-cradle’ approach and stimulates the reduction, reuse, and recycling of waste. UM-wide waste sorting, and specifically cutting general waste from 55% to 45% of the total waste flow by 2021, will bring us a significant step closer to achieving that goal.
Besides contributing to a cleaner environment, waste separation contributes to:
- socially responsible entrepreneurship
- efficient waste collection and cleaning
- a sustainable, clean and healthy workplace
- an attractive environment to learn and work in.
Waste separation is one of the steps towards a circular economy. The better the quality of our waste, the higher the environmental benefit. According to a calculation by CE Delft, the CO2-profit from recycling plastic is 1.2 kg CO2-equivalent per kg recycled plastic. 37,000 kg of plastic waste was collected from the UM in 2017. To illustrate, 80% recycling would result in an emission reduction for 2017 that corresponds to a CO2-emission of 3% of UM power consumption or 7 petrol cars per year. Improving waste separation therefore certainly contributes to our sustainability ambitions.
Rabbe Dormans, UM Sustainability advisor
What happens to the sorted waste?
Old paper is converted into new paper. Paper and cardboard can be reused many times over and in the Netherlands, are the main raw materials for producing new paper and cardboard. Reuse saves raw materials, with each 1000 kg of recycled paper actually saving fifteen trees!
Collecting plastic, metals and drink cartons also pays off. Sorting plastic at the source is necessary if it is to be used to manufacture new products such as fleece clothing, tennis balls and new packaging materials. Because no new plastic is needed for these products, less fossil resources such as oil are needed and savings are made on both energy and CO2 emissions. For example, the energy saved by recycling a single plastic bottle can power a 60W-lamp for six hours.
Drink cartons are recycled separately, which results in the recovery of paper, plastic and aluminum. Metals can be recycled endlessly and costs as much as 20 times less energy than its production.
General waste is sent to the incinerator.