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 is 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 2019/20, the reallocation of furniture and equipment at UWE Bristol led to an estimated annual saving in avoided procurement and waste disposal costs of over £44,500 and £11,000 in value by way of donations to third parties. For further information email the team at

Furniture repairs

In 2019/20 the UWE Bristol Room Management Team saved an estimated £2,350 in procurement and disposal costs by repairing rather than replacing damaged items of furniture identified during their daily rooms checks. Instead of being disposed of, these items were given a new lease of life.

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. Despite the unusual nature of the 2019/20 academic year, 1,123 bags of donated items were still collected from UWE Bristol's collection banks. This equates to £15,722 in income from the sale of items collected by the British Heart Foundation.

Reduce, reuse, recycle, recover facts

Our figures for 2019/20 are:

  • Total waste (excluding construction): 1,698 tonnes
  • Recycling rate (excluding construction waste): 57%
  • Reuse rate (excluding construction waste): 1%

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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