Could your building reduce its waste by 55%?

15 January 2021

Occupants of Sir James Foots, Steele and McElwain Buildings cut their landfill by more than half last year after joining UQ’s Towards Zero Waste pilot program. You could do the same in 2021!

If you and your colleagues often notice recyclables in incorrect bins; difficult waste (think batteries, printer cartridges) lying around; or good compost going out with the garbage, maybe it’s time to make a team resolution?

By joining UQ’s Towards Zero Waste program, your building gets:

  • Extra and separated recycling bins for materials like soft plastics and paper
  • Other recycling streams, including batteries, polystyrene, e-waste, and toner and ink cartridges, collected and recycled
  • Organics bins in bathrooms and kitchens
  • Support from UQ Sustainability and your building’s Green Rep volunteers.

Changing behaviours

The concept basically involves making it as easy as possible for everyone to put their rubbish in the right place. By making bins accessible throughout the building, our pilot programs proved that small behavioural changes from many people can add up to big results.

Take the McElwain Building. Prior to its pilot, around 80% of its waste was going to landfill. Just a couple of months after implementation, the waste profile looks very different.

Now, only 25% of waste is going to landfill, while 40% gets recycled and 35% is being composted.

Sir James Foots and Steele Buildings saw similar results, as you can see via the combined figures of all three buildings below.

“We really enjoyed participating in Towards Zero Waste,” said Kate Murphy, an executive support officer and Green Rep who was instrumental in championing waste reduction in the Sir James Foots Building.

“It’s amazing to see how everyone comes together and embraces the initiative. 

“People were telling me they’d implemented changes in their own homes too – which, of course, helps to reinforce the recycling and re-use loop!”

Stream Pre-program implementation Post-program implementation
Landfill 86% 32%
Recycle 14% 30%
Compost 0% 38%

Going to the next level

As the name suggests, Towards Zero Waste is ultimately about eliminating waste entirely from your workplace. Or getting as close as you can to it.

So, in addition to improving recycling practices, our program aims to help you reduce the amount of waste generated in the first place.

Some ideas to help your building achieve this may include:

  • Ask your event caterers and hosts to adhere to UQ Sustainable Event Guidelines
  • Advertise any furniture or equipment that is no longer needed on UQ WarpIT. (Staff are required to check UQ WarpIT for furniture items before purchasing new)
  • Re-use or recycle office items such as packaging, boxes and stationery wherever possible
  • Bring re-usable water bottles, food containers and coffee mugs for your takeaways
  • Sign up to Green Caffeen
  • Consider putting in place to transition to a paperless or paper-lite workplace. Again, UQ Sustainability can help; ask us how

Getting involved

Read more about UQ’s Towards Zero Waste program.

Contact the UQ Sustainability office and we can schedule a meeting to talk more about feasibility and implementation.

We will also put you in touch with the Green Rep volunteers in your building. They will help you organise actions on the ground and lead the crucial education component on how, when and where to recycle, compost and re-use.