What Does A Sustainable Campus Look Like?

Customer Stories: The University of Melbourne and their trailblazing recycling plan for 2020

It makes sense that Universities would have a large role to play when it comes to sustainability, having historically been champions of change. From student-led activism to syllabuses that challenge the status quo, they have the power to nurture young minds and enact large-scale behaviour change.

With this week being Australian Recycling Week we thought we’d focus on one of our customers that’s making a visible difference, the University of Melbourne. Packed with over 45,000 students, this facility is presently setting a precedent for sustainability on campus through its clear stance on climate change and environmental stewardship.

Back in March 2016, the University adopted a Sustainability Plan for 2017-2020 which stemmed from their Sustainability Charter. This Charter outlined their various obligations to sustainability, including to demonstrate leadership, to enable active global citizenship for all students and staff, to promote equity in the use of global resources, to ensure transparency and accountability in all institutional activities, and more.

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The University of Melbourne want to be pioneers of sustainability, and invoke the change they hope to see in the world. This year, they became the first and only University to achieve a 6 Star Communities rating for their Parkville campus.

Their goals are varied, but consistency has always been key for successful implementation and groundbreaking results.

“We’re constantly doing talks, we put out posters, and we’ve got sustainability representatives in every faculty,” says Judith Alcorn, Waste Minimisation & Biodiversity Coordinator at the University.

“I do cleaners training; the people along the chain, we all try and get the word out. But it is tricky because we’re such a large institution, which is why it’s important to get everything standardised and fitting in with [our students’] lives. If it’s a bottle or a piece of paper they will know it goes in the yellow bin, and that a plastic wrapper goes in another one, as this colour system is almost everywhere in Australia now.”

With the help of colour-coded Method recycling bins in their faculty spaces and soon-to-be in their bathrooms, the University of Melbourne’s target is that by 2020 they will have dropped their landfill output to 20kg per person by 2020 for the year. We created a custom waste stream for the University's toilet facilities purposefully for paper towels (their place of use), so that the facility can ensure these are getting recycled and not put in landfill. 

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What are their other targets?

  • Achieve carbon neutrality before 2030

  • Achieve zero net emissions from electricity by 2021

  • Reduce emissions by 20,000 tonnes of carbon per year by 2020 through on-campus energy projects

  • Increase staff/student ‘level of awareness in University sustainability issues’ to over 15% with high level of awareness and 70% with moderate awareness or higher

  • Increase staff/student ‘level of participation and action in Sustainability initiatives

  • Offset staff air travel emissions – 50% by 2018, 100% by 2020

  • To further encourage cycling on campus. They now have 1800 bicycle spaces at their Parkville campus.

  • To increase the Green Impact Initiative, a fun campaign to increase sustainability originating at the University of Cambridge

  • Increase their Sustainability Advocate Program

  • Preserving their flora and fauna under changing climate conditions, and embedding their management in decision-making processes

  • Reduce mains water usage by floor area by 12% from 2015 baseline by 2020.

  • Having all undergraduate degree programs to enable students to understand and apply sustainability knowledge and values to practice in their field

Successful implementation and sustainability on campus comes from education, motivation, and dedication to the cause. We’re excited to be a part of the University of Melbourne’s incredible, change-making journey.

What place do you think Universities have in the conscientious world we live in?


Interested in our beautiful recycling bins? Let us be part of your sustainability journey.