The transport and processing of waste results in CO2 emissions and wastage of raw materials. The University's prime aim is therefore to avoid producing waste as far as possible.
Leiden University has a three-pronged approach to reducing waste:
- The main objective is to prevent waste. This is the most effective way of reducing the impact on the environment.
- Any waste that remains will be processed sustainably so that raw materials can be recovered.
- The residual waste can be incinerated with energy being reclaimed from the process. Leiden University is then contributing to the circular economy in which waste is returned to the chain as a raw material.
Waste flows and amounts
Staff, students and visitors to Leiden University jointly produce around 700 tons of waste per year, an amount that has been stable over the past three years.
Two-thirds of the waste is non-separable commercial waste that is incinerated. A quarter of the waste is paper and cardboard. 32 per cent of all waste collected by the University is separated, into such categories as paper, wood, building waste, frying fat, glass, high-value plastic, computers and other equipment. Old furniture is often recycled within the University, but there are no formal rules and regulations governing this. The amount of non-hazardous waste per student is comparable with other broad-based universities.
More than a quarter of the waste is made up of paper and cardboard, which is why Leiden University is conducting an active campaign to reduce paper use. An example of this is the project that aims for the Administration and Central Services Department to be 95 per cent paperless in 2017. The experiences gained with this department will then be used to reduce paper usage in the faculties by making students and staff aware of how they can avoid waste. The University also carries out regular awareness campaigns to advise staff and students on how they can prevent waste.
Recycling waste can also help the University to further reduce its environmental impact. Leiden University is setting up an online recycling shop where items can be offered that the University no longer uses. Staff and students can bid for these items. This system will promote recycling and reduce the costs of transporting waste. The webshop will be operational from the start of 2017.
Biodegradable packaging material
Leiden University is exploring whether single-use packaging can be replaced by biodegradale packaging. The amount of waste per student is expected to reduce to a maximum of 25 kilos per student in 2020.
Recovering raw materials
The second prong in the University's policy on waste is to separate more of the waste produced. This can be done at the point when the waste is thrown away or when it is processed. It is possible to achieve a higher percentage of separated waste by placing containers with separate sections for different types of waste in more workplaces. This will also increase environmental awareness among staff and students. By 2020 less than 250 tons of commercial waste will be incinerated.
A pilot scheme has started at the Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences using waste containers with four different types of waste, located at four central points in the Faculty building. The pilot proved to be a success: good quality food waste and plastic were collected in separate containers. However, the company processing the waste was not able to do anything with the separated types of plastic, apart from incinerating it with the residual waste. Based on this experience, the decision has been taken not to introduce separate containers for waste within the University for the time being. We will continue with the separation of high-quality (clean) plastics at dispatch facilities, and we will be intensifying the separation of fruit and vegetable waste in the kitchens of the University’s restaurants. Metal products will also be collected separately at the University Sports Centre.