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Author: Beroze Dubash
Date: 06 October, 2014

Melbourne University has broken new ground with the most comprehensive local study to date on facility level source separation.

The ‘Build It and They Will Recycle’ study (available here), studied on campus source separations system with the aim of identifying best practise.

The study used a combination of a literature review and waste audits to assess the effectiveness of different source separation systems.

Audits in 2009 and 2011 showed how the University’s former source separation system was difficult to grasp and inefficient when it came to maximum capture of recyclate.

These audits led the University to set out a waste management plan, which targeted a 50% recycling rate by 2015.

An initial literature review showed that an uncomplicated recovery system, conveniently located infrastructure, education and persuasion by rewards were key factors that enabled people to recycle more.

The University also conducted its own research with digital photographs and counting individual items found in bins.

The research centered on location, labelling and distance from bins. It unveiled that:

  • In the absence of an indoor recycling bin, a landfill bin will contain approximately 38% recyclable material
  • If a recycling bin was more than 5 meters away, it remained at 38%
  • If a recycling bin was 1-4 meters away, the amount dropped to 17%
  • If the bins were adjacent to each other, the amount dropped further to only 14%.

Since this time, the University has placed landfill and recycling bins in a 1:1 ratio at Bailieu Library. Recycling rates have risen from 5% to almost 80%.

Placing paired landfill and recycling bins at the Sports Precinct has also seen rates increase from 6% to over 90%.

Currently, the University’s recycling rate is at 41%, which is up from 16% in 2011.

Read this article at Resource Recovery.