In recent years there has been a shift not only in increasing the quantity of recycling but also increasing the quality of the materials collected. These trends are visible through the recent WRAP Barriers to Recycling review and Defra’s Quality Action Plan.
LSE is a university with a large and complex estate. They wanted to undertake an independent audit of the composition of their waste, in order to identify targeted improvements in recycling rates and waste management.
The general waste and recycling material from three buildings was collected and analysed separately. This provided a distinct set of results for each building. Bags containing waste and recycling materials were labelled before being placed in the appropriate external bins to identify which building they had derived from. Unlabelled bags from different sources across the campus were also analysed as well as the contents of food waste bins, whose contents were derived from the main on-site kitchen.
M·E·L Waste Insight’s team of analysts collected and sorted the samples over five days. The material was categorised into 32 different material types and their weights recorded on pre-prepared sheets. Food was categorised into avoidable, possibly avoidable and unavoidable. This categorisation provided further insight into the types of food that were disposed of; over buying, and over preparing being in the avoidable category for example.
The audit was successful in determining the types and quantities of materials that could have been diverted from the general waste bins to the food and recycling waste streams. The project also showed the types and quantities of materials classed as contamination in the food and recycling waste streams.
The results gave LSE an insight into the sources and causes of contamination in recycling bins. This information will inform initiatives to improve recycling rates, reduce contamination and prevent waste, especially food waste.