Waste Separation

Waste separation at Leiden University

What is better for waste recycling: a plastic, paper or ceramic cup? A bio-based or fossil-based coating? Waste sorting at the source or at a recycling facility? Ask ten experts and you will get ten different opinions. We can all agree on one thing: doing nothing is not an option. Thus, Leiden University has been increasingly working to enhance the amount of recycled waste.

Since February 2019, something has changed in our University’s waste separation system. At LUGO we monitored the changes carefully, and we are happy with the progress that Leiden University is making so far to recycle more. Here all the relevant information you need to be a green and environmentally conscious student!

5 waste streams

Until now the university had four waste streams:

  • Biodegradable waste and food remains (Green)
  • Plastic packaging material, metals (cans) and drink cartons (PMD: Orange)
  • Paper (Blue)
  • Residual waste (Grey)

Only since February 2019 the waste that falls into the category of PMD (Plastic packaging, cans and drink packages) produced by educational institutions in The Netherlands can be collected separately to be recycled.

Leiden is the first University in the Netherlands to recycle PMDs and to do so more efficiently a new waste stream was added:

  • Paper cups (black)

Treatment per waste type

  • Biodegradable waste and food remains are being utilized effectively. They are sent to a digester, where a part is turned into biogas and the residuals are being processed into compost.
  • Paper and cardboard are cleansed and made into new paper and cardboard. More than 80% of the paper made in the Netherlands contains recycled paper.
  • PMD can be separated well by machines. Plastic is granulated for making new plastic products. Cans are melted down for the production of new cans. The cardboard and aluminum layers of the drink cartons are separated and recycled, the plastic coating can be reused for new plastic materials.
  • Paper cups will be processed into tissue products, like toilet paper. Its plastic coating will be granulated. These PE granules will then be used as raw materials
  • Residual waste will be incinerated to recover energy. However, as this is the least environment friendly waste flow, the University’s objective is to keep residual waste to a minimum.

The goal, as stated in the Environmental Policy Plan 2016-2020 , is to reduce the amount of residual waste to less than 250 tons in 2020.

Data collection for market steering
Your actions count! The better students and staff separate their waste, the better the data represents the quality of our plastics waste. This is essential for the University to have enough data to solve waste-related issues as it was previously done with PMDs.  Thus, the better you separate the waste, the better the quality of the waste, which will increase the chance of it being recycled in the future. Remember that, if you are in doubt and you want to know which bin you should use, flyers on our current waste segregation system are available in many buildings (such as LIPSIUS) and online .

“Prevention is better than recycling”

As the Green Office of Leiden University, we would like to reiterate this important message that the University is conveying. However efficient our recycling system may be, avoiding waste is always the best solution. Therefore, all students and staff members are invited to bring their own bottle instead of buying disposable plastic ones and to bring their own cup or to re-use the cups provided by the coffee machines. In fact, our coffee machines won’t give a new cup if their sensors will see an old paper cup (or a normal porcelain white cup) when ordering a beverage.

Give your opinion!

Do you think waste separation and reduction is just as important as we do? Apply for the Leiden University Panel . You will regularly receive a survey to think about topics such as waste separation at Leiden University. Input of these surveys have contributed to the development of PURE and the vegan assortment at university restaurants.