As of the 16th August, the University of Sheffield agreed a new waste and recycling contract which will continue our responsible and sustainable approach to waste management.

Our university has always had a keen interest in recycling and we have implemented waste management and disposal schemes, proven to be efficient to the utmost standards.  

As a large organisation, we have a big responsibility to reduce the amount of waste we produce and increase the percentage of waste that is reused and recycled. It is important that everyone on campus helps to recycle, understands why it’s important, and recognises that the consequences of not recycling will be extreme.

Why is waste important? 

Natural resources and materials provide us with the supplies we need to meet our basic human needs and to develop human and social capital. However, many of these resources are only in use for a short period of time and then are disposed of into the environment through landfill or by being downcycled (involving a decrease in quality during recovery operations).

Society’s current model of economic development, based on high resource use, waste generation and pollution, is linked to climate change and air pollution, the degradation of natural resources and ecosystems, and the effect of the extinction of species.

The impact of this model for climate breakdown is both global and unprecedented in scale, and without drastic action today, adapting to these impacts in the future will be more difficult and costly.

The role that sustainable waste management and the reduced use of plastic will have in lowering global greenhouse gas emissions will become more apparent and important over the coming years.

Our approach

As an organisation that generates waste each year, much of which consists of single use items and packaging, it is important that we take a proactive approach to reducing our waste and our scope three carbon emissions.

At the University of Sheffield we manage our waste through a waste hierarchy system. It is an important concept and the cornerstone of sustainable waste management and ranks options for waste management according to environmental preferability. It is important that materials are managed as high up the waste hierarchy as possible, this not only reduces the carbon impact of processing the waste but also means that the material has a higher value. Priority goes to preventing the creation of waste in the first place, followed by preparing for reuse, recycling, and then recovery. Disposal, in landfill for example, is regarded as the least preferential option.

In addition to our waste management scheme, we also have an equally sustainable waste disposal system. The general waste accumulated from the university will go for energy recovery in the city, and the recycling is processed at a sorting facility in Mansfield before reprocessing. Green waste is  sent to Chesterfield for composting, and food waste is sent for anaerobic digestion, partly processed in the city before being sent on for final processing in North Yorkshire. 

While agreeing our new waste contract, we strived to ensure every aspect of the agreement would be delivered sustainably, that’s why we decided waste must be sent for processing within a 50 mile radius and all vehicles used must meet Euro 6 Standard. Bidders were required to describe the techniques and technology the organisation uses to minimise mileage, fuel consumption and vehicle movements and ensure drivers are trained to drive sustainably. Our contractor is also required to collaborate and support the University to drive forward improvements in performance, reduction in waste, and improvement in recycling rates, through the development of annual improvement plans.

The University of Sheffield is proud to be playing its part in ensuring an efficient recycling and waste management scheme is being delivered and hope to reassure our students of our commitment to being a university that understands the importance of recycling and regards it as a high priority obligation.