Green Heroes: The Law Library employees

Green Heroes: The Law Library employees

On his last day before moving to his new job at Wijnhaven Library, we spoke to Johan IJzerman about the initiative he set up within the Law Library. Johan is a student of Pedagogy at Leiden but also works 19 hours a week as a library employee in multiple of Leiden University’s Libraries. Seeing that the university does not currently recycle any plastic, Johan initiated a system to separate and recycle plastic bottles.

What is the initiative?

In an effort to reduce the plastic waste generated by the Law Library, Johan suggested to install a collection point for staff and students. The separated bottles are recycled by the municipality but not by the university. Once or twice a week the plastic bin is emptied by the employees and brought to the closest plastic recycling station to limit the amount of plastic waste within the regular waste. This initiative keeps the bottles out of the general waste.

Why did it start?

The initiative was started when the Law Library employees talked about waste within the library. They realized that many students brought plastic bottles with them into the study area and left them behind on tables or in the regular waste bins. This could easily be done by providing the possibility to separate plastic and with the help of the students of course. Johan, who generally already cared about sustainability, thinks we have to act now and not wait any longer, because “There is no planet B”. Since as of now the University is not initiating university-wide plastic recycling, he believed that collecting these bottles together with the other library employees would lead to less bottles left behind on tables and less bottles in the regular waste bins. This was received well by the other library employees and together they set up a system to collect the plastic bottles.

How is it going to continue?

The initiative started only a few months ago but hopefully soon it influences the university to introduce plastic recycling in all faculties. Even though Johan is leaving the Law Library, he ensured that the other employees can easily continue the initiative.

Future plans to make the Library more sustainable

As a library employee, Johan sees that there are still basic actions to be undertaken on a university-wide level to make the university more sustainable. For example he suggested that the university could try to lower the amount of paper being used during the book exchanges between the different libraries. Currently, the system consumes massive amounts of paper, from which some could be reused or saved. Moreover, Johan is open to the idea of lowering screen brightness on the computers and have the computers shut-down times more closely related to the library opening hours.

Where to next?

Students and staff of the university are in the best position to understand its systems, and find innovative approaches towards sustainability. Johan’s approach proves that a good idea and a small amount of effort can make immediate, tangible impact. If you have an experience with the university that is not sustainable, you can begin to impact a positive change immediately. Efforts like the staff of the Law Library’s do not go unnoticed, and they stimulate an attitude of critical engagement with the university.


Do you know about another sustainable project or initiative or do you happen to do it yourself? Please let us know! E-mail your project or recommendation to with the title: “Green Heroes”