Bins and bags in a range of odours and colours, new terms and habits that still need to be adopted, question marks and confusion. Still, all in all, things are going well at Hanze UAS, where waste separation is concerned. ‘We still have until 2025.’
‘If it doesn’t contain what it should, it’s headed straight for the waste incinerator.’ It may sound a bit rigorous, but that’s the way it is. Susan Beijert, EcoSmart waste specialist, knows what happens to the bags of waste produced by Hanze.
Since May 2019, all Hanze UAS buildings have been equipped with strong cardboard bins for four different types of waste
‘The soup and coffee cups often have other waste mixed in with them, for example. There are quite a number of people who tend to use such cups as mini wastebins for things like apple cores or crumpled up packaging. And then they go and throw it in the bin intended for cups. The thing is though, if other materials are mixed in, the recycling business will not be able to process the cups. And that means they end up in the waste incineration plant, which is a pity.’
Since May 2019, all Hanze UAS buildings have been equipped with strong cardboard bins for four different types of waste. The paper section (marked ‘paper’) is recognisable by its slot. The bins for plastic and tins and cans (marked ‘plastics’) have a large round opening, which is also found on the ones for residual waste (and also marked ‘residual waste’). The fourth type of bin has four round openings and is intended for cardboard cups (marked ‘cups’).
Anyone peering into the bins will see plastic bags in various transparent colours: blue in the paper bins, white in the plastics bins, yellow in the cups bins and pink in the residual waste bins.
Tin, paper, plastic and cardboard all are given a new lease on life, which is wonderful
The cleaners have strict instructions to toss the bags (or their contents) into the main waste containers, which – when full – are collected by recycling company Renewi, for transportation to locations where the waste is transformed into new raw materials which can be re-used. Tin, paper, plastic and cardboard all are given a new lease on life, which is wonderful.
Well maybe not entirely wonderful, since the pink bags end up being incinerated and going up the chimney, into the open air.
Separation at source
This practice is set to change, since there will be no more pink bags by 2025, and no more residual waste bins. They will no longer be needed, according to Hanze UAS, simply because there will no longer be any residual waste at Hanze then. This is referred to as zero waste: zero percent residual waste.
Hanze UAS supply managers Marc ter Steeg and Anna Holtman are closely monitoring the pathway to Zero Waste.
‘The stage we’re at now is where awareness is being raised,’ says Marc. ‘Prior to our starting to work with Renewi, our waste was separated too, but that was done after collection. Although it was an excellent and quite refined system, in the long run it still remains better to separate at source. In the end it yields more. It allows people to realise that what we call waste is actually raw materials in the rough.’
The coffee cups ended up in the residual waste in the canteens, while people having soup outside the canteen would attempt to dispose of their cups in the cups bin
‘Changes like these take a lot of doing,’ Anna explains. ‘A lot of parties are involved: the waste processor, the catering companies, the catering outlets in the various buildings, students and staff. And, much as we expected, some things go differently than intended.’
Coffee cups in the organic waste
Coffee cups are a good example. There are no bins for coffee cups in the canteens.
‘The thinking was that hardly anyone drinks coffee in the canteen. We thought soup would be what people were consuming there,’ Susan recalls. ‘In both cases, we were wrong though. The coffee cups ended up in the residual waste in the canteens, while people having soup outside the canteen would attempt to dispose of their cups in the cups bin, which is a logical thing to do, of course.’
Eurest is a major catering company and we are just one of the many parties they work together with
But according to Marc, this is not really the intention.
‘The coffee cups contain sugar-cane fibre, while the soup cups are made from cardboard. It would be better to collect them separately, but that would mean adding yet another bin to the array. That might be undesirable. What would be ideal, would be if the cups were made from the same material. However, we haven’t managed to achieve that yet.’
Just nine months into the process
This has to do with the contracts that Hanze UAS has concluded with various parties. The coffee cups are from Selecta, while the soup cups come from the Eurest range.
Anna: ‘Eurest is a major catering company and we are just one of the many parties they work together with. Of course they are also subject to all sorts of procedures and guidelines. We are quite capable of indicating what we would like, but whether and when this could be realised depends on multiple parties.’
However, Eurest is most certainly collaborating with Hanze UAS to achieve the Zero Waste target.
Marc ‘This is one of the reasons we decided to do business with them. By now, Eurest has started to make the necessary changes which would mean their fully meeting Renewi’s waste stream requirements.’
If you use the bins for a while, you end up knowing what the intention is. However, it’s still not clear at a glance
The two supply managers see a bright future.
‘We’re just nine months into the process,’ Holtman says. ‘And it’s clearly headed in the right direction. We still have until 2025.’
This isn’t to say that current practice is perfect. Quite the contrary: Susan’s job remit includes tracking down and reporting where the system has flaws or is going wrong.
Knowing where to discard what type of waste should be a no-brainer, for example. Generally speaking, this is the certainly the case at Hanze UAS. The bins sport an A4-sized sticker. The green side of the sticker lists what may go into the bin (designated ‘allowed’), while the red side lists what may not be discarded in it (designated ‘not allowed’).
Grumbling at Willem-Alexander
‘But you do have to bend down to be able to read it,’ says Susan. ‘That’s not a problem for many users, and if you use the bins for a while, you end up knowing what the intention is. However, it’s still not clear at a glance.’
Not for everyone, perhaps, but it is for Dagmar. The International Sport Studies student in her second year finds it all no trouble at all.
‘I was brought up dealing with this,’ she says, just after tossing a minuscule piece of paper nonchalantly into the paper bin.
When they introduced the four-bin system here at Hanze UAS, you heard a lot of grumbling
‘Especially my father is a gung-ho waste separator. There’s a lengthy list posted at home. When they introduced the four-bin system here at Hanze UAS, you heard a lot of grumbling. Especially due to the fact that there were no longer wastebins in the classrooms … and you had to walk all the way to the corridor to throw away anything. It all reminded me of me and my little sister when first confronted with waste separation at home. “Yeah, well what difference does it make?” was what we thought. But the thing is, it does indeed make a difference. And it all takes such little effort. Besides, who would have thought? Not a year has passed and no one wastes a word on the subject.’
A quick glimpse of the contents of the bins outside the Willem-Alexander Sports Centre proves Dagmar’s point. Things are exactly as they should be. It even seems as if some of the athletes are taking the trouble to remove the paper teabag tags to dispose them in the paper bin.
The sad lot of food scraps
‘At the end of the day, all of the packaging used at Hanze UAS ideally would be in a single waste stream,’ says waste expert Susan. ‘Packaging currently is made from plastic and paper, like the sandwich wrappings used in the canteen; packaging like that should be abolished. It is taking things a step too far to ask people to separate the packaging components before discarding anything. So what do we see as a result? They end up throwing away the packaging in the residual waste bin, precisely the one whose contents end up in the waste incinerator.’
Packaging currently is made from plastic and paper, like the sandwich wrappings used in the canteen
This is also the sad lot of the contents of the organic waste bins, where food scraps end up. These metal bins, called Qubics, can be found in the Hanze UAS canteens.
Although the exterior of one of the Qubics clearly states that it is intended for organic waste matter such as food scraps, a number of the canteen staff simply use them as waste bins for anything left over from a meal.
Waste separation at source may still have a long way to go, but then again, it’s not 2025 yet by a long ways.