Concern as 80% of uni waste going to landfill amid sustainability bid

Photo: Newsline/CCC
Photo: Newsline/CCC
More than 80% of waste at the University of Otago goes straight to landfill, as the institution looks to firm up its sustainability credentials.

The figure comes from the university’s sustainability report presented to the council last week.

The report says although some of its sustainability targets were being met — such as reduction in transport emissions — there was concern about its waste

"We have achieved reductions in total waste above expectation, but have not made sufficient progress on improving the percentage of waste which is diverted from landfill.

"There are a number of initiatives in place to create a more circular student economy to progress this goal, including specifically addressing food waste."

The report said the university had hoped about 50% of its waste would be being diverted from landfill by now.

The present rate was only 15%.

Food waste from campus and university halls proved to be particularly problematic.

"We estimated an annual quantity of food waste in the region of 150 tonnes across the 14 residential colleges. The amount varied significantly between colleges, days of the week and stages of production.

"While food waste is being diverted from landfill to a digestor by WMNZ [Waste Management New Zealand] for two colleges, and donated to food recovery, there is still a significant amount that we need to reduce, and then divert. This is a key action on meeting our objective of 50% of all waste being diverted from landfill."

E-waste from obsolete IT equipment was also an issue, the report said.

"The responsibility for procurement and disposal of IT equipment had until 2023 been the responsibility of individual departments.

"The centralisation of this function and the audit of all IT resources identified large quantities of E-waste that were not being captured."

The report said the university had established an E-waste manager in response to this concern.

Their role would include establishing "effective collection, cleaning and distribution systems to maximise the waste captured in the system, and the positive outcomes that can be realised when these resources are reused either across the institution or in the community".

In the next five years, the two "most material areas" to improve on were:

 • Improving the amount of general waste that is diverted from landfill.

 • Reducing the amount of food waste, and diverting the remaining waste from landfill.

The university’s sustainability office was recruiting another tētekura (student lead) to focus on waste-sorting education and initiatives within the public spaces on campus, the report said.