Australian universities are increasingly moving towards more sustainable work practices. This shift not only presents economic and financial benefits for the universities, but recognises the unique responsibility of universities in influencing the future generation to adopt more sustainable practices.
As the University of Western Sydney demonstrates, universities can position themselves as a living laboratory in their initiatives to green their operations. Importantly, such a focus on sustainability sits across the full range of the universities functions, in research, learning and teaching, engagement with the region and in campus operations.
It is in this context of the shift towards sustainability, with the aim to address both cultural and economic outcomes that universities across Australia are working to increase recycling and reduce landfill waste.
Universities, driven by the diversity within their environments and functions, require a large range of waste and recycling solutions, however consistent across all successful waste management solutions is effective engagement and communication.
The UTAS Resource Recovery Program is a great example of a comprehensive waste program which is achieving excellent recycling recovery rates and so generating savings through reduced landfill waste. The importance of implementing an effective resource recovery program for UTAS was emphasised last year when the students and staffs rated this as their highest priority in annual surveys. This initial level of engagement was fostered throughout the program.
New Public Place Recycling bins marked the start of the program which launched the specifically designed UTAS waste management signage, which was created to reflect the inclusive nature and increasing internationalisation of the university. From a distance, the standard three arrow recycling symbol appears which is made up of the word ‘Recycle’ in the top eleven languages spoken by the students and staff of UTAS. This design is mirrored across the national standard colours for general waste (red), newsprint (grey), cardboard (brown), and batteries (pink). Corey Patterson, Sustainability Manager UTAS, highlighted this communication strategy as a very important aspect of the success of the program; “we are very excited about this aspect of the program as it ensures that all members of our community know they are part of our sustainability efforts.”
Complementing the initial external recycling bins, UTAS turned entire buildings green, using the customised UTAS signage and the flexibility of Source Separations System’s MultiSort system. This modular recycling system, with a comprehensive range of lids featuring Australian Standard colours and modified apertures, and the ability to customise labels and retrofit to existing kitchenettes, consistently met the diversity challenge. The system was effectively rolled out into buildings as diverse as a rural clinic in Burnie Campus Library, to the university gym, research houses and labs, uni facilities and corporate service buildings. The streams and capacity of the MultiSort systems were determined by the results of the local audits conducted by university volunteers which ensured the volumes and waste streams were understood.
The University of Western Sydney is similarly focused on sustainability through a recycling and waste program, having diverted 317 tonnes of recyclables from landfill in 2010. After a pilot in 2010, the university rolled out the MultiSort system in high use, high profile office areas, and in conjunction with a number of targeted waste minimisation initiatives, comingle recycling has increased 95% when compared with the previous period last year.
The management of green waste also forms an important element in UTAS Resource Recovery Program. Domestically, over half of waste can be recovered as green waste, and in targeted areas, such as food outlet areas and cafeterias, the opportunity to divert waste from landfill is even greater. To maximise convenience, UTAS chose to use a recycling system which included the Compost-A-Pak liners for green waste. These liners are made from natural starch-based polymer which is 100% compostable and biodegradable with AS4736-2006 accreditation, which can decompose in weeks.
Moving on from permanent recycling solutions, the University of New England have expanded their waste and recycling activities to address the need to increase facilities during outdoor events such as graduation ceremonies and open days. Using the MAXISORT System, the university is able to significantly increase their waste and recycling collection systems through the use of existing 240 litre MGB’s under the MAXISORT, which is a cost effective solution, that minimises the requirement for storage outside large events.
Increasingly universities are shifting to more sustainable waste and recycling practices, which is significantly reducing landfill, and setting new practices for the new generation of leaders.