Waste and recycling

We recycled 56% of our waste in 2019-20 – and generate 31kg per student per year.

Our commitment

To reduce the amount of waste generated per staff and student, and to increase the proportion of waste recycled.

We aim to:

  • recycle 70% of our waste
  • reduce the amount of waste generated per student to 20kg or below
  • raise awareness around waste and recycling for students and staff. 

Our performance:

  • In 2019-20 we generated 19kg of waste per student.
  • In 2019-20 we recycled 56% of our waste. 
  • In 2018-19, we generated 31kg of waste per student.
  • In 2018-19 we recycled 52% of our waste.

Our recycling bins

The University now has a mixed recycling collection scheme, meaning that all recyclable materials (except glass) can be mixed together in the same recycling bin across main campus. We are hoping this will remove any confusion about which bin to use, and hopefully increase the amount of recyclables we divert from the waste stream.

There are a couple of items that we find commonly in the recycling bins that shouldn’t be in there: disposable drinks cups, tissues and used paper towels and any type of plastic bag or plastic film should go into the general waste bins as they cannot be recycled.

If the wrong item ends up in the wrong bin it can prevent the waste being recycled correctly, so it is important to use the right bin. If you are unsure: consult the list below, check the packaging for recycling symbols or get in touch with the Sustainability team at sustainability@plymouth.ac.uk.  

What can go in the mixed recycling bins? 

Paper and cardboard items
Office paper
Junk mail
Some sandwich packets (check for recyclable logos)

Milk bottles and other plastic drink bottles
Clear plastic food trays
Plastic lids
Yoghurt pots
Fruit punnets
Disposable drink cup lids (not the cups)


Metal lids
Drink cans
Food tins
Foil trays
Clean tin foil
Biscuit and cake tins

Please flatten cardboard items and drain beverage items first.

What should I do with disposable hot drink cups?

We encourage bringing your own cup to our café sites (see below), but if you do end up with a disposable one we have introduced blue recycling points. These blue recycling points allow you to separate the lids, empty any remaining liquid, and recycle the cup. Disposable cups cannot go into the usual green mixed recycling points due to their plastic/cardboard mixed composition.

What can’t be recycled and should go in the non-recyclable bins?

Food including tea bags, banana skins etc
Disposable hot drink cups
Shiny foil gift wrap
Paper towels
Black plastic food trays
Cling film
Crisp packets
Plastic bags
Plastic film
Foil lined food packets
Dirty foil
Crisp and sweet wrappers

For glass please take this to the bottle bank located in Scott Car Park. 

For more information about this and where to recycle your other more specialist waste such as batteries or electrical goods please go to the student and staff Environment & Sustainability SharePoint site.

The campus waste depot

We have a dedicated team of staff on campus who manage our waste in the waste depot on campus. The depot is a hub of activity where the team collect the waste from the bins around campus. But it doesn't stop there. They take apart broken chairs, desks and bits of furniture to separate wood, plastic and metal. And they collect electrical waste – officially known as Waste Electrical & Electronic Equipment (WEEE) – to maximise recycling.

We stop waste that has the potential for a second life from reaching the waste depot. With an extensive furniture store on campus, we store furniture until it can be redistributed to other University offices. This reduces waste, and reduces University spending on furniture. Some of the items which aren't suitable for our offices any more are sold to other users. 

Electrical waste

The University separately collects electrical waste, most of this waste can be reused, refurbished, saved from landfill and given a second life. Items which are beyond repair are dismantled and the components recycled.

Nearly 30 per cent of us in the UK still throw away electrical items in the bin, but if you dispose of it properly it can be refurbished and resold, or recycled, preventing the need for valuable raw materials to be extracted from the earth.

The University provides two routes for you to recycle University electrical waste and departmental electrical waste. For more information on this, please read the information on the Waste and Recycling page on the student and staff Environment & Sustainability SharePoint site.

What to do with your electrical waste at home?

For personal electrical waste you have at home, St Luke’s Hospice will accept small household electrical items such as lamps or hairdryers and small kitchen appliances. For larger items, such as fridges, a bulky waste collection can be arranged through Plymouth City Council. More information on both on the following links:



Food waste

We want to remove food waste as much as possible from the University. In 2013, we introduced food composting from the catering outlets and in 2018–19 we collected 14 tonnes of food waste. All food waste produced is recorded, and then taken to an anaerobic digester at Langage farm which produces bio-fertiliser for the farm. The University reduces food waste by donating near date food to local charities such as Trevi House.

All of our disposables are fully compostable and our used cooking oil is collected and turned into biofuels.

Furniture store

We have a furniture reuse store on campus, where all furniture that is no longer needed due to office moves, and that is still in a useable condition, is stored for future use. The 240m2 space is full of reusable office furniture from desks and shelves to swivel chairs. It is estimated that our reuse store saved £36,055 in furniture costs in the year 2017-18 and £56,826 in 2018-19. Any furniture that comes into the store that is no longer suitable for our use is collected by a local charity for resale. Furniture that is no longer fit for purpose is dissembled in our yard for recycling.

Use your reusable cup at our campus cafes 

Our goal is to reduce the number of disposables cups used and then disposed of on campus. It’s estimated that 2.5 billion paper coffee cups are being thrown away in the UK every year. That’s almost 5,000 a minute, or 7 million per day! One reusable cup will on average have completely paid for itself after around 50 uses. 

Cut waste, cut carbon, save money when you use a reusable cup at our campus cafes and get a 20p discount.
<p>Ditch the disposables coffee cup graphic for feature panel</p>
<p>Marine litter, microplastics on the beach.</p>

Leading the charge against plastic pollution

The University is at the forefront of international research into the causes and impacts of marine litter and is now taking action to reduce the plastic waste generated on its campuses