A recent waste audit conducted by the Glasgow University Environmental Sustainability Team (GUEST) has found that the University Library is not meeting its recycling goals.
GUEST inspected over 280 of the main library’s recycling, general waste and food waste bins, and found that most bins contained the same mix of rubbish.
While the main problem appears to be with students, who are not taking the time to properly sort their rubbish, the report also points to errors made by library staff.
Most striking is the library’s misuse of its "dual stream" bins, which have two separately labelled openings for general waste and recycling. The audit found that a single bag was collecting the waste dropped in both slots – in effect misleading students who think they are correctly sorting their rubbish.
However, these dual stream bins make up only nine of the library’s over 280 bins, suggesting that the main problem lies with students’ recycling habits.
A spokesperson for GUEST said: "any recycling initiative is only as successful as the sum of its parts."
"Following on from our audit, planned improvements to recycling infrastructure in the Library (extra bins, consistent positioning and clearer labelling) will not necessarily deliver increased recycling rates, without building users also taking personal responsibility, and making the effort to use the facilities correctly. Thus, the entire University community has a role to play."
The audit recommends several steps for the University to take to encourage students to recycle, including using consistent signage for all bins across campus in order to avoid confusion and placing the bins more strategically around the library.
In addition to environmental consequences, the audit found that the incorrect disposal of waste ends up costing the University more in waste hauling fees, as general waste costs £44 more per tonne to haul than recycling. With over 20 tonnes of waste to dispose of per month in the main library alone, this can result in the loss of thousands of pounds per year.
The findings of the audit are at odds with the University’s Sustainability Strategy, which promises to ensure that the University undertakes its work in an "ethical and sustainable manner.”
Responding to the report, a spokesperson for the University of Glasgow said: “The University is always working to understand how we can improve our strategy for recycling.
"The recent library pilot provided an opportunity to undertake further analysis on how to make our recycling clearer for stakeholders to use and more efficient in output. The information we have gathered will be analysed and used to help inform strategy for the future.”
GUEST has also stated that it "will continue to work in conjunction with other University Services staff to ensure that students understand how to recycle waste correctly on campus, and also appreciate the environmental benefits of doing so."
"The University is striving to adopt a whole-of-institution approach to sustainability management: progress in this area is overseen by a sustainability working group. Keep an eye out for events focusing on waste reduction and recycling during Go Green Week, running from 12-16 February, on campus."