Social Responsibility and Sustainability

Our Waste

The University is committed to embedding circular economy thinking into practice and designing waste out of its operations by becoming zero waste by 2030.

In 2018, the University approved its Waste Strategy, setting out how it will achieve its vision to becoming a zero waste University by embedding circular economy thinking, and putting waste prevention, reuse and recycling at the forefront of our relationship with resources.

The Waste Strategy sets out targets across waste generated in the academic estate, managed student accommodation at Pollock Halls and managed student catering at Pollock Halls.

A total of 2,300 tonnes of waste was produced in the academic estate this year, compared to 3,100 tonnes in 2018-19. Managed student accommodation at Pollock Halls generated 100 tonnes of waste, a reduction of over 50 tonnes compared with the previous year. Waste from student managed catering at Pollock Halls came to 113 tonnes, a reduction from 170 tonnes in 2018-19.

The Covid-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the volume of waste produced throughout the University in 2019-20. Numbers of staff and students on campus have reduced significantly, contributing to the considerable reduction in the volume of waste produced between April and July 2020. Due to Covid-19, there has been an Increase in single-use items such as face coverings, gloves, paper towels and wipes.

University waste

Academic Estate

Indicator Target 2017/18 2018/19 2019/20
Waste reduction 10% reduction in waste arising per capita (FTE staff and students) from a baseline of 73 kg in 2016/17 to 66 kg. 66 kg  (0%) 65 kg  (-1.5%) 47 kg  (-39.3%)
Reuse Increase reuse rate to 10% against a 2016/17 baseline of 5%. 3% 4% 3%
Recycling and composting Increase recycling/composting rate to 80% against a 2016/17 baseline of 52%. 55% 53% 55%
Composting/anaerobic digestion Reduce food waste by 40% to 36 tonnes in 2022/23 (against a baseline of 60 tonnes in 2016/17). 78 tonnes 71 tonnes 58 tonnes
Landfill diversion Maintain percentage diverted from landfill at 99%. 99% 99% 99%

ACE Managed Student Accomodation at Pollock Halls

Indicator Target 2017/18 2018/19 2019/20
Waste reduction 10% reduction in waste arising per student from a baseline of 66 kg in 2016/17 to 59 kg. 71 kg (+5.6%) 85 kg (+20%) 57 kg (-33%)
Reuse Reuse at least 90% of furniture and equipment resulting from accommodation refurbishments.  At least 90% of furniture was reused through Bright Green Environmental Solutions. At least 90% of furniture was reused through Bright Green Environmental Solutions. At least 90% of furniture was reused through Bright Green Environmental Solutions.
Recycling and composting Increase recycling rate to 80% against a 2016/17 baseline of 41%. 52% 57% 58%
Landfill diversion Maintain percentage diverted from landfill at 99%. 99% 99% 99%

ACE Managed Student Catering at Pollock Halls

Indicator Target 2017/18 2018/19 2019/20
Waste reduction 10% reduction in waste arising per student from a baseline of 71 kg in 2016/17 to 63 kg. 90 kg (+26.8%) 96 kg (+7%) 66 kg  (-32%)
Recycling and composting Increase recycling/composting rate to 80% against a 2016/17 baseline of 66%. 77% 78% 80%
Composting/anaerobic digestion Reduce food waste by 40% to 34 tonnes in 2022/23 (against a baseline of 57 tonnes in 2016/17). 81 tonnes 96 tonnes 54 tonnes
Landfill diversion Maintain percentage diverted from landfill at 99%. 99% 99% 99%
General waste and recycling bins with stickers on them about how to properly dispose of paper towels, face masks and wipes.
New bin signage in response to Covid-19 related waste

Supporting reuse

The University’s licensed waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) contractor, collected 7,200 items of WEEE across the University in 2019-20, equating to 70 tonnes. A total of 22 per cent of this was reused. The PC Reuse Project at the University aims to facilitate the reuse of IT equipment. A total of 529 items were donated to community partners in 2019-20, providing computers and laptops to those people in need.

We are committed to eliminating single use plastic items wherever possible, such as in offices, catering and non-clinical settings. Progress has been made in recent years through the implementation of charges to single use coffee cups and the increased provision of water fountains across the University. Covid-19 has brought significant challenges to eliminating single use plastic items. There has been an increase in items such as face coverings, gloves, paper towels and wipes for health and safety reasons. Going forward the University will be working with suppliers and waste contractors to identify opportunities for reuse.

Since its launch, Warp It, the University’s re-use portal has enabled the reuse of over 550,000kg of items. University staff and PhD students have saved over 760,000kg of CO₂e. In 2019-20, cost savings of £95,000 were generated, with over six tonnes of waste being avoided. A protocol for redundant equipment for laboratories has also been agreed this year, supporting reuse of this equipment.

Departments from across the University came together to develop and deliver opportunities to embed and support sustainability at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in University venues in 2019. This was advanced by developing a new Sustainability Protocol for the University, strengthening sustainability into policy, reviewing the use of single use cups and packaging, providing support to tenants, establishing an online and physical presence for sustainability in the Festivals Fringe, and bringing together a network of stakeholders for festival sustainability.

Case studies

TerraCycle recycling points established across the University

Staff help University to save over £720,000 by reusing items

Sustainability in the Festivals