Despite new schemes and initiatives to curb the issue of waste, Bournemouth University has admitted that it could do more to increase recycling.
Waste and recycling bins are positioned throughout the university’s Lansdowne and Talbot campuses, but products that end up in mixed recycling bins are actually turned into a refuse-derived fuel (RDF) to create energy, rather than being shredded to be reused in future products.
With 7 million coffee cups thrown away each day in the UK and only 1 in 400 being recyclable (due to plastic lining on the cardboard), a high percentage of the university’s waste that ends up as RDF comes coffee retailers.
The university’s sustainability manager, Neil Smith, concedes that the current approach is less than ideal, but said that it was a more desirable option than simply allowing the waste to go to landfill sites.
“Obviously it’s not great that our cups aren’t being recycled, but none of our waste actually goes to landfill. Even though they will be burned, it’s one up on landfill,” he told BUzz.
“However, it’s not great that we have a waste stream that we thought was being recycling and isn’t.”
To help combat the coffee cup issue, the university has introduced a series of measures to encourage people to reduce the amount of waste and products that are subsequently used for RDF fuel.
Reusable mugs are sold on the campuses and customers can request that their drink be made in their cups, and if they can continue to do so, deals are in place, such as a 20p discount at SUBU outlets.
Since reusable mugs were introduced in spring 2016, the university estimate that they have sold more than 600.
Smith added: “We will continue to look for ways to encourage staff and students to buy reusable mugs and use those instead. It helps us in that a) we don’t have to buy as many cups in the first place, and b) we don’t have them turning up in our waste streams.
“They have gone down well but it doesn’t do any harm to remind people of that option.
“If we can cut the amount of waste going into our bins then that is good all round. But that’s something we haven’t really pushed as much and we need to.
“In the Fusion building, the canteen will give you crockery such as mugs, rather than plastic cups, but only on request. We have to do more to push that, too.
One way of preventing any coffee cup from ending up in landfill or as RDF fuel is by installing Simply Cups bins around the university’s premises. As the UK’s only recyclable cup scheme, they have a specific bins whereby cups are separated from other waste products which allows them to be recycled, or bulked and bailed to make products from.
Bath University have already introduced the bins across their sites, while Loughborough University are currently trailing them in their libraries.
Bournemouth University have previously met with Simply Cups, but ruled that the cost implications of installing the bin around the university wasn’t financially feasible.
“Simply Cups involved hiring different contractors and other financial implications which made it not viable. There was significant cost implications for the university,” Smith added.
Maddy Hickman, Simply Cups scheme manager, told BUzz that it is possible to fit 500 cups into their bins as they stacked them via tubes, as opposed to a normal bin only accommodation 100 loose cups.
Hickman said that they still have obstacles to overcome before more universities and workplaces sign up. “The barrier with universities is that they worry students won’t put cups in the correct bins,” she said.
“But we think universities can really set the example to other workplaces and offices.”