University of Cambridge’s precision technology approach to recycling is a first for UK higher education
The University of Cambridge is reducing the number of different bins used by staff and students and introducing an innovative waste recovery service that sorts recyclables with precision technology, including 3D scanners, as it aims to increase waste recycling from around 50 per cent to 80 per cent.
The pioneering recycling system is the first of its type in the UK higher education sector. It increases efficiency by offering just two bins to choose from - one for food waste and one for dry mixed waste, labelled ‘resource recovery’. There will be no general waste bins.
After it is collected, waste will be cleanly sorted into recyclables to reduce confusion and unintentional contamination of materials. Food waste will be converted into energy at an anaerobic digestion facility, and the dry mixed waste will be separated into recyclables at a materials recovery facility (MRF) that can identify and sort recyclables with advanced precision. The MRF uses 22 miles of conveyor belts and sorting technology including 2D and 3D scanners, and near infra-red separators.
The process will launch in July and promises to increase the university’s recycling rates from the current average rate of 54 per cent to an average of 80 per cent. The small amount of materials that cannot be recycled are converted into coal replacement fuels.
All dry mixed waste collections will be made by electric, zero-carbon tailpipe emission vehicles. In another UK first, the university’s new wheelie bins are made from 100 per cent post-consumer recycled plastic collected from the local area. These bins can be recycled a further 10 times.
Facilities management operations manager Steve Matthews said: “The University of Cambridge is committed to exceptional environmental performance. The new system will allow us to recycle far more materials than before which will make a positive contribution to protecting the environment.”
And Mountain Recycling director Abigail Johnson added: “As a team we’re extremely proud to have been selected as a supplier to the university. Mountain Recycling’s innovative sorting technology is a win-win, providing an easy way for bin users to recycle, and an improvement in the amount of resources that can be recycled.”