Waste Management at the University of Kent

Hello and welcome to our blog post about Waste management at the University of Kent. It has been some time since we have last wrote a post (we’re sorry!) and so we thought it was time to refresh your memory of waste management at the University and what this entails.

All waste management is underpinned by the University of Kent Waste Strategy 2018-2021 which is a document created to detail set aims and objectives that we are working towards within a certain time period. The reason that the current strategy takes us up to 2021 is because this is when our main waste contract with Viridor ends and so at this point we can look at other actions that we want to complete. Obviously throughout the years we tend to see which of our aims an objectives have been easier to complete than others with different factors making this possible, for example the climate emergency helping to really profile what we are doing or if there is a change to the recycling industry which has an impact on us. An example of this would be the news that plastic waste was being shipped to China to which they then refused to accept any more, luckily we were not affected as our waste stays in the UK but this has had an impact on the plastics industry as a whole.

In this strategy we discuss the drivers for waste management, the waste hierarchy and the main themes of our aims and objectives which I will briefly go explain.

Compliance with waste management legislation forms the basis of all our waste management operations. Our Environmental Management System (EMS) certified to ISO14001:2015 (to find out more please visit our sustainability webpages) identifies all of our legal requirements and how these impact on our waste operations. At all times we manage our waste in line with our Duty of Care responsibilities and in a manner which does not cause damage or pollution to the environment or harm to human health. We recognise that promoting sustainable waste management has beneficial financial implications. Starting with waste prevention, there are financial benefits for improvement at each step of the waste hierarchy.

As a leading academic institution, we firmly recognise the important role we play in providing a clear, educational example on the importance of responsible waste management, to staff, students and wider stakeholders.

The Waste Hierarchy model (implemented through Waste Regulations in the UK) sets out the “most favourable” and “least favourable” options for waste management. Where disposal is the only remaining option, the University aims for 100% of waste to be diverted from landfill. Wider Resource Efficiency Resource Efficiency is all about using natural resources in the most effective way, as many times as possible whilst minimising the impact of their use on the environment. This makes good business sense and is a concept that the Estates Department aims to consider when managing all of its resources along with waste disposal techniques.

Below is an image showing the waste hierarchy which provides us with the model of our preferred waste disposal and guidance for future changes. The aim of the waste hierarchy is to start at the top in prevention of waste generation, if this is not possible you then move to the next layer of preparing for reuse, if you cannot do this then you move to onto recycling, if this is not possible you then move to other methods of recovery which includes energy recovery (covered in our post next week about general waste) and the last on the hierarchy is disposal such as landfill, which the University does not do. It is still thought that our general waste goes to landfill which is does not.

Significant progress has been made in recent years and therefore we want to look beyond traditional waste management practices and develop a more holistic cradle-to-grave approach. In order to achieve this, we will look further at; infrastructure for waste, operations for waste and measuring waste success. As there are a number of aims and objectives within these three areas I won’t go into further details but again this is available to read on our webpages.

However I would like to touch on our targets, so as briefly discussed before this strategy is part of the Environmental Management System (EMS) which is used to plan, act, do and monitor the environment at the University. Each year we report on our targets back into the EMS which is used for future planning.

Therefore our targets are to:

  • Achieve waste reduction targets in regards to general waste following the below percentage decreases from the baseline year 2016- 2017 of 779.198 tonnes and
  • Achieve increased reuse targets to the below increases from the baseline year 2016-2017 of 56.414 tonnes.

Previously our focus has been on increasing our recycling percentage which we have successful achieved a level of 68%. We now recognise that we don’t foresee the possibility of this percentage increasing and so we have decided to aim for other targets which follows the waste hierarchy. The approach taken is that we start with the top priority of the waste hierarchy of waste reduction, following to the next level of importance of increasing reuse. We are basing each year of target as a follow on from the baseline year of 2016-2017. Below shows the targets for each year.

Below shows waste data comparisons from the 2015-2016 and the 2016-2017 academic years. In these years we introduced the Warp-it system resulting is reuse, were further promoting and increasing number of British Heart Foundation collections and introduced donating food with FareShare. Therefore we saw a reduction of general waste produced by 13% and an increase in reuse by 87%.

Hopefully this post has been able to provide some insight into waste management at the University and so moving forward we move into ‘What happens to our waste…’ series starting with General waste next month.

If you have any questions or want to find out more please reach out through our Instagram, twitter or email and there is also lots of information including the A-Z of waste on our webpages.