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Understanding waste management at the University of Leeds

Written by Negar Naghshinehpour

Sustainability Architects

Who knew waste management could be so interesting?

During my time as an architect, my role is to understand the current waste management practices at University of Leeds and implement solutions to reduce the overall single plastic usage. My main priority is in collaboration with Leeds plastic free ban, where the university has committed to eradicate single use plastics by the year 2023. Specifically, I am looking at how the cleaning services can reduce their plastics – particularity bin liners.

To do so, I’ve undertaken a generic understanding of how many bin liners are used yearly, the capacity of them and how efficiently they are placed around campus. Following this, I’ve started to research alternative materials that can be used as bin liners. University of Leeds is not alone in this journey; looking into other universities and cities around the world that have also committed to a plastic ban has been an eye opening experience.  The current option that stands out from my research is looking at recyclable plastic to be a potentially transition material for bin liners; thus reducing the carbon footprint.

I think the most surprising part has been understanding the complexity of how much the university produces waste. Looking at the photo above, a common problem is the amount of contamination and thus resulting in low recycling rates.  I’ve come to understand that recycling and waste management is much more complex then needs to be. I imagine that recycling and reducing waste should be made easy for the everyday student, staff and community member and that bins should be engaging and improved efficiency to be built in the design. 


Negar Naghshinehpour

MSc Sustainability & Consultancy