Reduce, reuse and recycle

The circular economy at UWE Bristol.

"The circular economy is a system where materials never become waste and nature is regenerated. In a circular economy, products and materials are kept in circulation through processes like maintenance, reuse, refurbishment, remanufacture, recycling, and composting."

Ellen MacArthur Foundation
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Ellen MacArthur Foundation

Our approach

The circular economy is a key principle of our approach. It is based on key principles which are linked with design, system and behaviour change:

  • eliminate waste and pollution
  • circulate products and materials (at their highest value)
  • regenerate nature.

Underpinned by a transition to renewable energy and materials, the circular economy is a resilient system that is good for business, people, and the environment.

In line with our key principles, our Climate and Sustainability Plan 2024-2026 aims to:

  • promote sustainable and circular consumption
  • reduce carbon emissions
  • 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.

Our Climate and Sustainability Plan 2024–2026 (PDF) aligns with 2030 strategy targets to be carbon neutral as an organisation, with net zero emissions of greenhouse gases by 2030. This includes ‘Scope 3’ emissions which covers embedded carbon from all purchased goods as well as all waste generated by our operations on and off campus.

2030 strategy targets

  • Tackling annual total waste: reduce annual waste per person by 10% by 2026, against 2018/19 baseline (excluding construction waste).
  • Increase reuse activity to be equal or greater than 10% of total waste produced in tonnes, including construction reuse.
  • Recycling rate target: 70% by mass of all waste to be recycled by 2026.
  • As an academic supporter of the UK Plastics Pact we will focus our research and teaching on delivering the technical solutions to support the Pact, as well as minimising unnecessary single use plastics from our operations.

Recycling and reuse

Our figures for 2022/23 are:

  • Total waste (including construction): 1,925 tonnes
  • Total waste (excluding construction): 1,629 tonnes
  • Recycling rate (including construction): 63%
  • Recycling rate (excluding construction): 56.6%
  • Reuse rate (excluding construction waste): 2.6%

"It’s clear that to achieve a true circular economy a radical system change is essential. This also means that recycling cannot be the major tool to be relied upon, because the problem lies upstream of the bin."

Waste Management World
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Waste Management World

The circular economy in practice

In practice, we not only need different systems of design and production but also for people to change how they do things. The following initiatives support people to make simple planet friendly changes at UWE Bristol.

What you can do

  • Use the Sustainability Hubs on Frenchay and Bower Ashton Campuses for sharing and swapping clothes, books, household items, and more.
  • Visit the Reuse Marketplace for furniture to claim reused items for work and home – visit our Sharepoint site (for staff only).
  • Bring your own coffee cup and you won’t have to pay the 20p charge for a single use cup in UWE Bristol cafés.
  • Carry a reusable water bottle with you and fill it up at our refill stations located around campus.
  • Cut packaging – carry your own bag and buy loose fruit and veg from the stall at Frenchay Campus. Check out the Zero Waste section of The Students' Union shop on Frenchay Campus and other zero waste shops in the city.
  • Turn the tide on plastic pollution – visit City to Sea for all you need to know about living with less plastic and check out the Students’ Union’s tips for having a sustainable period.
  • Cut food waste. For hints, tips and recipes visit Love Food Hate Waste.
  • As well as the Sustainability Hubs, students can donate unwanted items during the Annual Big Give campaign at the end of the academic year, supporting the British Heart Foundation.
  • Come along to one of our mending and repair workshops for clothes and electrical equipment.
  • For more ideas on how to reuse and recycle visit Hubbub – tips for change.

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:

  • Hackathon with Team Entrepreneurship students working with our contractor Suez to find solutions for reusing difficult materials.
  • Capturing student views and feedback on Returnable Coffee Cup Scheme in partnership with City to Sea.
  • Analysis of recycling volumes and student behaviours in campus accommodation.

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

Volunteering at the Sustainability Hub

The Sustainability Hub provides students and staff with an easy way to swap and pass on reusable items. Students can volunteer here – a fun and flexible way to gain practical experience of reuse as well as meeting like-minded people and gaining a reference. Sign up on Infohub (login required).

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