Mountain Recycling's waste recycling facility. Credit: Mountain Recycling

The University of Cambridge aims to increase waste recycling from around 50% to 80% by 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.

The new system will allow us to recycle far more materials than before which will make a positive contribution to protecting the environment.

Steve Matthews, Facilities Management Operations Manager

The pioneering recycling system – the first of its kind in the UK Higher Education sector - lessens confusion and increases efficiency by offering only two bins for users to choose from. One bin will be for food waste and the other will be for dry mixed waste, labelled ‘resource recovery’. There will no longer be general waste bins. 

Waste will be cleanly sorted into recyclables after it is collected, 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 pioneering 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, which launches in July, aims to increase the University’s recycling rates from the current average rate of 54% to an average of 80%.

All of the University’s dry mixed waste collections will be made by electric zero carbon tailpipe emission vehicles. In another UK-first, the University’s stock of new wheelie bins are made from 100% post-consumer recycled plastic collected from the local area. These bins can be recycled a further 10 times.

Steve Matthews, Facilities Management Operations Manager, 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.”

Abigail Johnson, Director of Mountain Recycling, the waste recycling company the University is working with, said: “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.”

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