Newcastle University has been recognised for its commitment to sustainability with a national award.
The organisation was given a gold star, the highest accolade in the National Recycling Stars Scheme, and was named its star of the month for March.
The University was given the award for improving recycling rates by 70 % over the last three years, the amount of recycling facilities it makes available to staff and students and the way it engages staff by holding regular meetings.
Waste Manager Daniel O’Connor said: “It is really rewarding to have your efforts recognised in this way. We take this very seriously and have achieved a high recycling rate of 92 %. We are always looking at new ways we can improve.”
Schemes such as `bin amnesty’, where staff who give up their under desk bins are rewarded with a bar of chocolate are proving successful. Another project using a ‘bin cam’ to encourage students to recycle more is due to be rolled out later this year by the University’s Culture Lab. It works by placing a smart phone in a bin which photographs the contents when someone uses the bin. It then places the information on social media to remind the students how to recycle properly.
Daniel O’Connor said: “We want recycling to be fun and that’s where schemes like the bin cam and the amnesty come in. It’s a light-hearted way of reminding people that this is important.”
Self-catering student residences have recycling bins in the kitchens, and recycling facilities are on site at catered halls of residence. At the end of term a big recycling drive takes place and the University works with St Oswald’s Hospice to collect left-behind belongings.
Recycling isn’t the only sustainability activity the University is involved in. It is currently looking at ways it can increase biodiversity – the number of plants, insects and animals on campus - too. This has included planting wild flowers at the back of Windsor Terrace and creating gardens with pollen rich flowers to attract insects, in particular bees.
It is also running a Green Impact scheme where University staff take responsibility for sustainability in their areas of work, for example ensuring there are enough recycling bins in place, looking at sustainable travel options and ensuring light and other electrical appliances are turned off.
Professor Tony Stevenson, Pro-Vice Chancellor for Planning and Resources said: “We are a big organisation and we know that means what we do has a big impact on the environment. We want to recycle as much waste as possible and we are well on our way to achieving that. I’m proud of what we have achieved so far but there is always more we can do.
“We are making great inroads in improving our sustainability by recycling items such as paper and plastic – and we are going much further than that. We are also looking at the effect we can have on campus by growing plants to attract insects such as bees, which are under threat, to campus. We also want staff to be involved which is why we have started the Green Impact scheme so they can take charge of sustainability in their area.”
published on: 21 March 2012