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Open plan recycling

The University has moved to open plan recycling, which has seen communal recycling stations become a prominent feature of offices, kitchens and shared spaces. This removes the need for the majority of individual bins.

A central recycling station increases the options for people who are disposing of their waste, which encourages users to consider their habits and make the right choice, rather than blindly throwing items into a single bin.

The principles

Recycling station in kitchen
      • The modern office layout has changed from closed offices and cubicles to more open plan and agile workplaces. this has changed ideas about waste disposal.
      • A recycling station is visible and the location is carefully considered and flexible.
      • One recycling station per every 30 (or so) people means that every person is less than a ten second walk from bins.
      • Visible recycling bins reinforce accountability. When people think they’re being watched, even subconsciously, they tend to take more thought over their decisions and are more likely to sort their waste correctly.

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  • "How much waste do we generate?"

    In 2018, the University generated more than 1,650 tonnes of waste, of which only 35% was recycled. Nationally, Australia’s waste is growing at double the rate of our population with 52 mega tonnes generated each year. That equates to around 460 kg per person.

  • "How does Open Plan Recycling work in practise?"
    • Bin locations are determined based on the number of people and waste streams created in the building. Locations are approved by local area staff.
    • Recycling stations are provided in kitchens, break-out areas and large teaching spaces, and corridors and public areas to service multiple offices. 
    • Staff are provided with an under-desk paper recycling box which they are responsible for emptying into a larger paper recycling bin every few months.
    • The action of walking to a recycling station as opposed to throwing items in a single bin, prompts staff to consider how they are disposing of their waste, leading to the formation of positive new habits.
    • Cleaners empty the recycling, organics and landfill bins daily, and the paper/cardboard bins as needed.
  • "How much of the University has open plan recycling?"

    All of the Roseworthy and Waite campuses, AHMS, and most of North Terrace campus have introduced this style of recycling in offices, kitchens, breakout areas and shared spaces. Laboratories and workshops have different bins and waste management practices, which tend to be managed by the local area.

  • "What are the benefits of this type of recycling program?"

    Over the past three years, open plan recycling has helped significantly improve landfill diversion rates; motivate staff and students to recycle correctly; and allow cleaners to spend more time cleaning and less time servicing individual desk bins. It's also prevented hundreds of thousands of plastic bin bags from going to landfill.

  • "What can we do about colleagues who are resistant to change?"

    The majority of people are supportive of improving their recycling habits and are happy to walk a few metres to a recycling station. But behaviour change – even something as small as not having your own bin – can challenge others.

    Most people will see the benefits of open plan recycling, from improved recycling rates and increased environmental awareness, to nicer work spaces with less clutter (bins!) and more potential for 'water-cooler / recycling-station' moments, leading to improved office culture.

    But those who insist on keeping their own waste bin can do so. However they will be responsible for emptying it daily and for providing the bin liner - the cleaners won’t touch it. This is consistent across the whole university. 

Infrastructure Engagement
North Terrace Campus
The University of Adelaide

Telephone: +61 8 8313 3763

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