Reduce, reuse, recycle

2020 strategy targets

  • UWE Bristol to embrace the circular economy - a sustainable alternative to a traditional linear economy (make, use, dispose) in which we keep resources in use for as long as possible, extract the maximum value from them while in use, then recover and regenerate products and materials at the end of each service life.
  • UWE Bristol to achieve a 95% recovery and recycling rate by 2020.

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

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. By the end of August last year 22,330 bags were collected, 180,000kg of items prevented from going to landfill and the equivalent of a notional figure of £320,000 income from sale of items collected by the British Heart Foundation.

Office de-clutter proactive initiatives

Major staff office moves are potential generators of large quantities of additional waste and we aim to minimise this by having de-clutter days. We work to manage these to minimise waste and increase reuse and recycling.

A note on compostable food packaging

The University’s hospitality operations are increasingly moving to the use of compostable food containers and cups at all outlets on our campuses. This comes with its challenges: to set up separate waste streams and to communicate to the customer effectively, so that the material goes into the right bins.

Reduce, reuse, recycle, recover facts

Our figures for 2018/19 are:

  • total waste including construction: 4,225 tonnes
  • waste excluding construction: 1,756.5 tonnes
  • annual recycling rate (including construction waste): 80.8%
  • annual recycling rate (excluding construction waste): 55.7%
  • waste reuse (excluding construction waste): 3.3%
  • construction waste recovery rate: 99%.

For more details, see our annual reports.

Where does our recycling go?

Our main material streams are recycled as follows:

  • Paper and card - go to Avonmouth as the first point of call, then on to Treforest where it is baled and sent for recycling at paper mills in the UK for turning back into paper products.
  • Plastics and cans - go to Avonmouth as the first point of call, then on to Treforest where it is baled and sent for recycling at factories within the UK.
  • Glass - bulked up in Avonmouth and then sent for reprocessing into other glass products.
  • Food waste - used by GENeco to generate electricity for Bristol's street lights and for bimethane gas, used for fuel for vehicles or supply local homes.

What you can do

  • Support The Students' Union at UWE's #plasticdetox campaign - avoid single use plastics and use a reusable water bottle and coffee cup.
  • Buy products from the Zero Waste section of The Students' Union shop on Frenchay Campus.
  • Buy a reusable bamboo cup at cost for £6 in our cafes and save the 20p levy that is charged for a single use takeaway cup.
  • De-clutter your office using the Office de-clutter guide (PDF) for helpful tips.
  • Check the A-Z listing for recycling for advice on how to recycle 24 different items.
  • Cut food waste by using leftover food, for recipes visit Love Food Hate Waste.

Student support and study projects

We are keen for students to use our waste and resource management system (a live repetitive system), as a living learning laboratory for your study projects, research or dissertations. 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 our Head of Environment and Sustainability, Paul Roberts at for more information.