Waste & the Circular Economy
Waste minimisation and recycling continues to be a critical task, with increasing interest in life cycle design of products and packaging, and diverting materials for reuse in higher value products, i.e. the `circular economy’. Management of waste sources has resulted in 50% reduction in waste volumes, and current waste compaction results in diversion from landfill and recycling of approximately 90% of Western’s total waste.
Key Strategies Emerging
Over the past decade, substantive changes in waste management strategies have been implemented. The move to waste compactors on each campus means that waste is subsequently processed at Materials Recovery Facilities. Separation of waste streams at the source into landfill (red) and co-mingled recycling (yellow) assists with later separation processes. Other general materials separated and recycled include paper and cardboard.
Choice of products which reflect a life cycle design assist to minimise waste and maximise beneficial reuse and recycling of materials. Emerging strategies reflect a move to re-use waste materials as higher value products. Examples include food and green waste composting for soil conditioning and carbon neutrality, and waste water from sewerage and stormwater treated and reused for valued water resources.
Hazardous and clinical wastes are managed at source by the particular technical or school laboratory managers, through accredited
Management Initiatives Underway
Further engagement regarding Responsible Cafes, Responsible Offices, Responsible Events. will be developed with the Social Responsibility theme of this Action Plan, building upon existing contributions and actions by staff members and interest by the Student Representative Council’s Environmental Collective.
Across all areas of Western, staff and lessees are interested in ways to utilise sustainable materials which reduce the use of non-recyclables, such as coffee cups, and avoid single use plastics, such as in laboratory processes. Pragmatic cost-effective improvements will be sought through consultation.
Related Living Lab Initiatives
Compliance Requirements and Risk
Operations through consolidated MRFs which operate at large scale reduce the risks to Western in seeking to manage different waste streams separately on each campus. Additional benefits include reduced illegal dumping on campuses, reduced visual clutter of skip bins, and reduced impact of waste trucks on campus roads.
A broad risk identified recently in the media has been the ultimate fate of recycled waste streams in Australia, some of which was exported to countries such as China and Indonesia.
Trends and Interdependencies
Trends in waste diversion and recycling continue to reflect excellent results, with improvements possible for food and putrescible waste.
|2020||Green/food waste diversion, Hawkesbury, contracts include responsible waste disposal|
|2025||100% green/organic waste diversion|
|2030||Demonstrated best practice|
Initiatives and Case Studies
Waste Compaction and Materials Recycling
Western has undergone a major transformation in its waste management over the past ten years. Consolidation of waste management through waste compaction and subsequent separation of waste streams at Materials Recycling Facilities (MRFs) has been a major change. Total waste reduced by 50% over a ten-year period (2009 to 2019), with reduction in tonnage of total waste going to landfill of 94%. The current annual rate for diversion away from landfill is 89%.
Food and Green Waste Composting
Continued efforts are underway to seek appropriate technologies and process for other waste streams on-site. The opportunity for campus scale composting of green waste from research greenhouses and grounds management and food waste is being investigated on Hawkesbury campus. While high tech automated composters are expensive, a simple system of composting bays and worm farms is being investigated.