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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, Estate 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 and fluorocarbon gases from disposed refrigerators
  • thoughtful disposal of mercury from light fittings, oils, organic solvents and paints (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 2017.

General waste

‘General waste’ consists of all waste collected from public spaces, offices, labs and teaching spaces. UNSW’s current waste management contract 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, including chemical waste, electronic waste, skip bin hard waste and many other streams. 

The following table outlines the total waste generated by UNSW between 2014 and 2017:

General waste
Waste componentTotal (tonnes)Total (tonnes)Total (tonnes)Total (tonnes)
Mixed metals (containers)19323215882
Food and organics502571382238
Food waste111108102118
Processed Engineered Fuel (PEF)x266667672
Component sent to landfill549472129186
General waste recycled1735.4226419481851
General waste subtotal2714269427442709
General waste recycling rate 64%60%71%68%
Landfill diversion rate64%94%95%93%
Other waste
Waste component – recycledTotal (tonnes)Total (tonnes)Total (tonnes)Total (tonnes)
Chemical waste No dataNo dataNo data12.3
E-waste 24161715
Fluorescent tubes 2.081.341.51.5
Batteries 0.581.451.420.77
Mobile phones
Toner cartridges
Waste oil20.4151517
Green waste99108128124
Wooden pallets**
Skip bins328.5319.9303.6313
Waste component – not recycledTotal (tonnes)Total (tonnes)Total (tonnes)Total (tonnes)
Chemical waste 110114122.5158.7
Biological waste 10610666102
Skip bins 541.5538.1569.4580
Other waste total1140.21131.841115.171518.5
Component sent to landfill 757.5758.1757.9738.7
Other waste recycled382.7496.74500.27517.8
Percentage of other waste recycled34%33%32%34%
Furniture reuse program
 Waste component1200 cubic metres800 cubic metres800 cubic metres1000 cubic metres

Data provided by UNSW EM Waste team

*Calculated by 3 tonne skip bins of concrete go directly to recycle from R9 civil engineering per annum
** 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. Based on 160kgs per cubic metre

Waste streamDestination
Paper & cardboardSeparated then transported to Veolia paper mill
Mixed organics (food)Separated then transported to Earth Power technologies to be processed using anaerobic digestion technology to convert solid and liquid food waste into a combustible gas and compost
Mixed metalsSeparated then transported to metal recycling facilities
PEFWaste to energy, processed on site and transported for sale
LandfillResidual waste transported to licensed landfill site

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 2017, 760kg of batteries were collected for recycling.

Packaging waste reduction including polystyrene

Polystyrene is identified as a dedicated waste stream in the new Waste Tender which was signed in 2017.

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 2017, 3.1 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 2017, 130kg of mobile phones were collected and recycled.

Bulbs and globes

Fluorescent light globes are processed as chemical waste and recycled. In 2017, 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. In 2017, 1413 tonnes of paper was collected and recycled.

Litter and dumping reduction

Cigarette butt litter

In addition to awareness campaigns and enforcement, UNSW Sustainability has installed six permanent Enviropole Cigarette Butt bins at the litter hot spots outside UNSW boundary and near main entrances.

Campus-wide dumping reduction

All skip bins on UNSW sites are gated/locked and/or monitored by security cameras to reduce illegal dumping.

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.