Reduce, reuse and recycle at UWE Bristol

Our initiatives to reduce, reuse and recycle, and what to do with your recycling.

Our approach

The circular economy

The circular economy is a key principle of our approach. It means that we aim to keep resources in use for as long as possible, extract the maximum value from them while in use, then at the end of an item’s usable life we recover materials and regenerate new products. This marks a significant change in the way we think about the resources we use and is a shift from the traditional linear economy; where we extract virgin materials to make things that are used (sometimes only once) and then disposed of.

In order to respond adequately to the climate and ecological emergency our Circular Economy Plan 2020 – 2024 aims to:

  • promote sustainable and circular consumption
  • reduce carbon emissions
  • take a holistic ‘whole-institution’ approach
  • promote joint working across communities of interest (i.e. local authorities, third sector and other higher education institutions)
  • exert control/influence over our supply chain.

 2030 strategy targets

  • We plan to be carbon neutral as an organisation, with net zero emissions of greenhouse gases by 2030 – this includes ‘Scope 3’ emissions which covers all waste generated by our operations.
  • We are developing and implementing a Circular Economy action plan.
  • As signatories to the UK Plastic Pact, we pledge to eliminate all but essential single-use plastic, and to meet the 2025 targets for recycling and reuse.
  • Tackling annual total waste – we are aiming for an annual 3% reduction in relative against our 2018/19 base (not including construction waste).
  • Our recycling rate target: 70% by mass of all waste to be recycled by 2022.
  • Our reuse rate target: 10% by mass of all waste to be reused by 2022.

What you can do

  • Bring your own coffee cup and you won’t have to pay the 20p charge for a single use cup in UWE Bristol cafés. If you don’t already have one, you can buy a reusable cup, at cost, from our cafés.
  • Carry a reusable water bottle with you and fill it up at our refill stations located around campus.
  • Consider the packaging that items you purchase come in. For products without the unnecessary packaging check out the Zero Waste section of The Students' Union shop on Frenchay Campus and other zero waste shops in the city.
  • Build sustainability into your health and beauty regimes by investing in reusable items, such as face wipes and cotton buds, and check out the Students’ Union’s tips for having a sustainable period.
  • Cut food waste by planning your meals, storing food properly and using up leftovers. For hints, tips and recipes visit Love Food Hate Waste.
  • When you do have items to dispose of, make sure they go into the right bins (see section below for more information on common recycling streams). When things are thrown away rather than recycled we lose those resources permanently from the system.
  • It is even better if items can be reused in their existing form. UWE Bristol staff can donate and claim furniture items by contacting the UWE Bristol Furniture Store via and students can donate unwanted items using the British Heart Foundation donation banks located in the accommodation areas.
  • There are also all kinds of sharing, swapping and reuse apps that you can use such as Too Good To Go (including UWE Hospitality unwanted food on campus) , Olio, Vinted, Depop, Hazaar and many more.

Increasing re-use - circular economy in practice

The following initiatives represent adoption of circular economy principles in management of the University's material resources:

UWE Bristol furniture re-use scheme

Thanks to this University scheme, unwanted furniture can be advertised and claimed by staff members for use at the University, at home or by a charity. In 2022, the reallocation of furniture and equipment at UWE Bristol led to an estimated annual saving in avoided procurement and waste disposal costs of over £26,285.17 and £7013.00 in value by way of donations to third parties. For further information email the team at

Furniture repairs

The UWE Bristol Room Management Team work with the Waste and Resources Team and the University’s maintenance contractor to repair rather than replace damaged items of furniture identified during their daily rooms checks and refresh rooms using existing furniture stock rather than buying new. Instead of being disposed of, these items are given a new lease of life, avoiding procurement and disposal costs, and contributing to our circular economy ambitions. 

Annual Big Give campaign

During this annual campaign, held from April until June at the end of the academic year, unwanted items and food are collected from students in halls and private accommodation across the city. During 2022, 1,783 bags of donated items were collected from UWE Bristol's donation banks. This equates to £24,962.00 in income from the sale of items collected by the British Heart Foundation.

Reduce, reuse, recycle, recover facts

Our figures for 2020/21 are:

  • Total waste (including construction): 3,607.04 tonnes
  • Total waste (excluding construction): 1,633.24 tonnes
  • Recycling rate (including construction): 79.3%
  • Recycling rate (excluding construction): 59.18%
  • Reuse rate (excluding construction waste): 3.73%

For more details, see our annual reports.

Student support and study projects

We can support you by providing advice on developing project ideas, data, and waste and resource management industry contacts.

Here are examples of study projects which have helped us to improve the sustainability of UWE Bristol:

  • Analysis of recycling volumes and student behaviours in campus accommodation
  • Measurement and analysis of littering on campus
  • Feasibility study for diversion of food and green waste to an in-vessel composter
  • Mapping internal recycling provision
  • Development of a communication campaign aimed at reducing single-use plastic

There are also opportunities for volunteering, student placements and internships. Contact us at for more information.

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