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KU students urge university to provide more recycling info after contamination fears

By Najib Hassan Nov 14, 2019
Elliot Spiers with a prototype design of the bins. Photo: Elliot Spiers

A Kingston University student has fronted a campaign to encourage better communication within the university when it comes to recycling the right materials.

Elliot Spiers, ex-Knights Park student officer and a third year graphic design student, believes that students are not fully aware of what they are really recycling. He also criticised Elior, the company contracted to run the university’s canteens, for using Vegware in their products. Vegware is a palm-based plant material that is used in the canteen’s coffee cups, and is seen as far more sustainable in comparison to plastics. However, Vegware is unable to be recycled, and contaminates the recycled items in the bins.

Spiers said: “I’ve noticed that there is a lot of miscommunication over what items can be recycled and which cannot, for example, you can only put stuff from the canteen in the green recycling bins, but apparently the orange recycling bins allow cardboard as well. The Vegware cups are mistakenly perceived as cardboard by many students.”

Spiers plans to utilise his campaign to encourage the university and Elior on reworking the recycling bins to make it clearly communicate to students which items are recyclable, as well as making it easily noticeable across the canteens.

His goal is that the campaign will make the university more sustainable in the long run.

“I’ve met with the sustainability committee and they are absolutely passionate about making our university more sustainable for the environment,” Spiers said.

“The Vegware and recycling contamination will most likely be taken into account when the university reviews its tenders for the operation of its canteens.”

However, some believe that the university should take tougher action on Vegware being supplied, thus contaminating recycling bins.

President of the Environmental Society Lucie Dyer and Vice President Maddie Fleetwood believe that Elior failed to communicate to Kingston University that they were not recyclable.

“They have supplied the product to the university, but they have not notified them with the full information. Also the university itself has also not researched what the Vegware really means for the recycling,” Fleetwood said.

“It’s definitely better than what they have done with the plastic cups, but it’s like riding a bike instead of a car, except the bike is without a set of tyres.”

The Environmental Society also believes that students should be informed on what they are truly recycling. They are planning to raise the issue with the student union in the near future.

“Most students are under the belief that it’s recyclable. There’s general waste and recyclable bins but students are confused on what the specifications are, so they just throw their coffee cups into whatever they feel best,” Dyer said.

Kingston University has stated that it is committed to protecting the environment and encouraging students to take part in its sustainable initiatives.

“The University works hard to actively remind students and staff about which bins should be used to dispose of particular products. Everyone across the University community has an important part to play in making sure unwanted items are disposed of in the right way so as much of this material as possible can be recycled,” A spokesperson said in a statement.

Elior has been contacted for comment.

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