Bath Spa University’s journey to zero waste revisited

The university’s sustainability objective is zero waste to landfill

In 2015 we caught up with Dr Julian Greaves, sustainability manager at Bath Spa University, who talked us through the university’s sustainability objective of zero waste to landfill and the strategy being put in place in the attempt to achieve it.

Bath Spa University worked closely with bin provider Leafield Environmental in order to implement its zero waste strategy in the most economical way. Vince Wright, Leafield sales manager was instrumental in providing specific solutions to meet the university’s requirements.

Some four years down the line, Greaves is able to evaluate how successful this strategy has proven. In short, the simple, three-stream, bagless ‘segregation at source’ scheme implemented has had great acceptance within the university and has resulted in over 80% of waste now being recycled. The university has been awarded a 100% mark for recycling in the People and Planet University League.

Bagless strategy success

Dealing with black sacks was expensive and time consuming. Injuries due to sharps were common, spillages from damaged bags destroyed carpets and caused residences to become smelly, and waste in black sacks caused the external bins to become overfull, leading to a continual litter problem. All of these issues had cost, safety and reputational consequences.

Bins were only considered for selection if they could be handled easily and the contents could be transferred to wheelie bins without problem. Where this was not practical, Leafield designers worked with Bath Spa to design removable plastic liners that could be used to transport segregated waste directly to the collection point.

“In the first year some £7,000 was saved by not purchasing plastic sacks and as a result of the university’s expansion that inevitably would have risen to £10,000 for the following year,” says Greaves.

Enabling segregation at source

Mixed recycling, food waste and non-recyclable waste are collected across the campus. Leafield Environmental supplied both internal and external bins for segregating waste into three streams in all locations: mixed recycling, food waste and non-recyclables.

For existing residential kitchens where the available space could accommodate three individual bins, Leafield developed the EcoAce Envirobin, a simple bin with WRAP compliant, colour-coded lid and graphics, easy-carry handles, and a capacity of 62 litres. 

Where space is at a premium, Envirostack stacking bins were installed: bins that could accommodate the three waste streams within a very small footprint. 

For use in corridors, receptions and high footfall areas Leafield’s stylish, slimline, Meridian bins were deployed. 

Outdoor collection is achieved using Envirobanks

The Envirobank 240 is for mixed recyclate and its smaller brother the Envirobank Split for food waste and general waste. 

An unexpected benefit of using Leafield Environmental’s rotationally moulded bins lay in their inherent strength and durability. Whereas previous injection moulded bins had to be replaced periodically as a result of damage, no Leafield bin has yet to be replaced, freeing up a budget of £5,000 a year.

Liners and bins are cleaned as necessary by domestic service staff or on occasion by a contractor. The university has installed its own bin washing machine but the cost has been more than covered by the savings made by not having to replace damaged bins.

The final piece of the jigsaw has been the installation of two, 35m cubed waste compactors, one for recyclables and one for residual waste, less than 2% of which now goes to landfill.

Offering higher quality, compacted waste and recyclables reduces disposal costs as well as reducing the carbon footprint for waste transport.

“Probably the biggest savings we have achieved are down to the reductions in operating costs,” says Greaves. 

“The improvements in overall efficiency generated by the strategy have enabled us save some £200,000 since the plan was instigated, a substantial sum by any measure.”

The success of Bath Spa’s strategy has been recognised by and attracted the attention of other educational establishments. Representatives from several universities visited the main Bath Spa campus for an EAUC meeting to see at first-hand the progress that the university has made on its road to zero waste. The ability to generate sustainability benefits alongside cost savings undoubtedly presented an attractive proposition to them.

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