Enlarge and download as a PDF | Source: UNSW Facilities Management

UNSW applies the principles of the internationally recognised Waste Management Hierarchy which states that waste is best managed according to:

  • avoidance including the reduction of waste;
  • resource recovery including reuse and recycling; and
  • disposal in an environmentally responsible way.

In common with many organisations, waste management is a considerable challenge for UNSW. With several different streams of waste generated by a wide variety of activities, the University proactively looks for sustainable ways to deal with waste. However, waste is not just an institutional responsibility, UNSW Sustainability, Facilities Management and the Arc student body have joined forces to introduce a number of University-wide waste reduction and recycling initiatives.

Some of these programs include:

  • our battery and mobile phone recycling program
  • an e-Reuse Centre established in collaboration with Arc
  • a reusable coffee KeepCup program
  • a stationery reuse centre to reuse unwanted office supplies
  • installing and promoting charity clothing bins in residential areas on campus
  • recycling waste cooking oil, fluorocarbon gases from disposed refrigerators
  • mercury from light fittings (via chemical waste).

Overview of waste

Waste is a key component of UNSW's
Environmental Management Plan.
See the EMP for a status report for 2016.

General waste

'General waste' consists of all waste collected from public spaces, offices, labs and teaching spaces. UNSW's current waste management contract with Doyle Bros ensures that all general waste is collected and carefully sorted.

Other waste

'Other waste' consists of all the other waste streams generated by the University.

The following table outlines the total waste generated by UNSW between 2014 and 2016

 Waste componentTotal (tonnes)Total (tonnes)Total (tonnes)
General waste Paper/cardboard130010451306
Mixed containers193232158
Plastic film59420
Food and organics502571327
Food waste111108106
Waste oil20.41515
Green waste99108127
Processed Engineered Blocks (PEF)00667
General waste subtotal2284.421212868
Component sent to landfill549472162
General waste recycled1735.416492706
Percentage of general waste recycled76%78%94%
 Waste componentTotal (tonnes)Total (tonnes)Total (tonnes)
Other wasteChemical waste (not recycled)110114122.5
Biological waste (not recycled)10610666
E-waste (Monitors, laptops, desktops, printers, scanners, projectors, fax machines, servers - sent for recycling)241617
Fluorescent tubes (recycled)2.081.341.5
Batteries (recycled)0.581.451.42
Mobile phones (recycled)
Toner cartridges (recycled)23.52.2
Concrete* (recycled)243030
Wooden pallets** (recycled)
Skip bins (328.5 tonnes recycled)870858876
Other waste total1140.31131.841118.27
Component sent to landfill 757.6538.1556.1
Other waste recycled382.7593.74361.82
Percentage of other waste recycled34%52%50%
 Waste componentTotal cubic metresTotal cubic metresTotal cubic metres

Data provided by UNSW FM Waste team

* Calculated by 8 x 3 tonne skip bins of concrete go directly to recycle from R9 civil engineering
** Pallets used for E-waste recycle and exam desk storage. 72 x pallets 20kilos/pallet = 1.5 tonne
*** Estimate from Furniture re-use contract and items re-used from UNSW Randwick Tram Shed storage.

Furniture reuse program

Any UNSW staff member or student needing additional furniture for their work space at the University, or wanting to responsibly dispose of old workplace furniture, can use the UNSW Furniture Reuse Centre.

Lab equipment is reused through a similar scheme called Technet. Both Adminet and Technet are sharing portals and run by staff volunteers.

Food waste

Food waste bins are available to campus food outlets and owners are encouraged to separate their food scraps. These bins are collected and the contents composted.

Food and organics

Food and organics are separated from the general waste collected on site at the Doyle Bros materials recovery facility and composted.

Cooking oil waste

The waste cooking oil collected from campus is recycled into the process of creating bio-diesel fuel.

Problematic waste streams


A battery recycling collection service is available to all UNSW staff and students. Spent batteries that are D-size and smaller, and all button batteries can be recycled by depositing them in the specific recycling tubes in most schools and buildings. There are also recycling tubes at the following locations:

  • FM Assist
  • Arc Precinct
  • The Chancellery.

During 2016, 1.4 tonnes of batteries were collected for recycling, an amount considerably greater than some local government collections in NSW! For any further information email sustainability@unsw.edu.au

Packaging waste reduction including polystyrene

Polystyrene is identified as a dedicated waste stream in the new Waste Tender (which should be signed in 2017 and serviced from 2018).

Printer and photocopier toner cartridges

Toner recycling bins are found throughout campus. UNSW partners with Close the Loop and Planet Ark, who collect and recycle cartridges and toner bottles from any brand of printer, photocopier or fax. During 2016, 2.2 tonnes of toner cartridges were recycled.

Mobile phones

Mobile phones contain both hazardous and valuable materials that need to be recycled and prevented from going to landfill. Mobile phone recycling stations are located across campus including the Library, FM Assist and the Chancellery. Phones can also be sent via internal mail to the Sustainability team. During 2016, 50kg of mobile phones were collected and recycled.

Bulbs and globes

Fluorescent light globes are processed as chemical waste and recycled. In 2016, 1.5 tonnes of fluorescent tubes were recycled at UNSW.  

Paper and cardboard

UNSW has run a paper recycling program for many years. The University is reimbursed per tonne of paper, so this process has both environmental and economic benefits.

Litter and dumping reduction

Cigarette butt litter

In 2015-16 UNSW Sustainability partnered with Security, Health and Safety, UNSW Health Services and Arc to launch an awareness campaign including stalls, flyers, newsletter articles and regular security guards patrolling litter hotspots.

In addition to the awareness campaign and enforcement, to provide an alternate option to littering, UNSW Sustainability installed three permanent Enviropole Cigarette Butt bins at the litter hot spots outside UNSW boundary near main entrances with three more coming in 2017.

Campus-wide dumping reduction

All skip bins on UNSW sites are gated/locked and/or monitored by security cameras to reduce illegal dumping. In 2016, there was also a campus-wide dumping reduction campaign run in collaboration with Randwick Council.

Waste awareness raising

Ongoing activities include:

  • posters promoting recycling displayed in communal areas
  • a quarterly Facilities Management newsletter with articles promoting ways to responsibly manage different types of waste (i.e. fridges, pallets, batteries etc)
  • installing and promoting water refill stations to encourage the re-use of drink bottles
  • environmental awareness training is available to all staff
  • stickers have been applied to all paper recycling bins across campus to promote the benefits of paper recycling.

Electronic waste recycling

Monitors, laptops, PCs, printers, scanners, projectors, fax machines and servers
UNSW has an agreement in place with the current IT equipment suppliers, HP and Lexmark. Serviceable items such as laptops and desktops that are no longer of any use to UNSW are remanufactured, resold or donated via HP Planet Partners.

Chemical and biological waste management

UNSW researchers are involved in activities which use a wide variety of chemical and biological materials. UNSW has contracts with specialist chemical and biological waste management companies who collect and dispose of these materials safely. Paint products are processed as chemical waste and recycled. 

Green Lab Program

The UNSW Green Lab Environmental Compliance Program works directly with faculties and schools to ensure relevant staff are informed of their legal responsibilities in regard to environmental compliance. The program offers training for staff and students who use the laboratories and environmental auditing of campus laboratories as necessary.