Resource Use, Recycling and Waste

Welcome to the University of Reading's Resource Use, Recycling and Waste pages. We aim to be an efficient user of resources and prevent waste being created in the first place; and then to reduce, re-use, recycle and recover items and materials. We want to enable everyone in the University to help minimise our impact on the environment.


Did you know that less than 2% by weight of the University's operational waste goes to landfill? This includes certain types of materials, such as asbestos, that have to be sent to specialist landfill facilities. Most of our non-recyclable waste is sent to an Energy from Waste plant where it is burnt to generate heat and electricity. Find out more about where our waste goes.

We’ve taken great steps to reduce our generation of waste through initiatives like Frank the Barista (an innovative Coffee scheme offering significant discounts to those using a University reusable cup), the Warp-It re-use portal for furniture, and through improved recycling facilities and communications.

View or download our Waste and Recycling Bin Guide that relates to bins inside most University buildings (except labs, catering locations and accommodation). Specific waste posters for labs are provided by Technical Services (contact Paul Willis). For guidance about waste in catering locations and residential accommodation operated by the University (not UPP-operated Halls), contact Sustainability Services via

If you can't find what you are looking for within the links above, please contact us via


In 2016, the University developed a 5-year Waste Strategy for 2016-2021 that set ambitious targets along the themes of reduce, re-use, recycle, review and report. As the Strategy was implemented over those five years, the University improved its management of waste and mitigated expected increases in disposal costs.
The total amount of waste generated per person reduced significantly after 2016, so that in January 2020 waste production stood at 17.6% less per person when compared to our 2015/16 baseline, well ahead of the targeted 5% per person reduction. The University’s recycling rate for operational waste (including re-use, anaerobic digestion & composting) for 2020/21 academic year was 60.4% by weight, beating our Strategy target of 60%. The University now has better and more comprehensive data available for analysis and reporting.

The University's new Waste and Resource Use Strategy 2021-30 was approved by the Environmental Sustainability Committee in June 2021. This new Strategy, covering the period from 2021 to 2030, is focused on responsible resource use and sustainable waste management, acknowledging the global, national and local drivers for improving the University’s environmental performance. We must aim to increase resource efficiency by doing more and better with less; to move away from the inefficient linear model of ‘take, make, use, throw’ towards a circular economy; to prevent waste being generated in the first place; to fulfil our legal obligations and align with the Waste Hierarchy; and to promote new opportunities and initiatives across the University.

Headline targets have been set as the basis for continual improvement:

    • Continue to reduce total waste produced per capita (staff and student FTE) year-on-year from the 2018/19 level of 50.9kg.
    • Increase re-use, remanufacture and repair year-on-year from the 2018/19 level of 11t.
    • By 2024, increase the University’s annual recycling rate to a minimum of 60% by weight and then maintain above this level for the duration of the Strategy.
    • By 2024, send less than 1% by weight of waste to landfill and then maintain below this level for the duration of the Strategy.
    • Review the University’s procurement practices to enable circular economy approaches to be developed by 2024.


The Strategy identifies key actions to meet these targets, including upgrading recycling facilities, improved communications and behavioural change initiatives, and reviewing opportunities to improve waste management processes.

Increased regulatory focus on environmental impact and how to measure this, rather than solely on the weight of waste generated, may require the targets to be amended during the timeframe of the Strategy.

The University’s main waste contract was re-tendered in autumn 2021 and a new contract commenced in February 2022. An initial 3-year Delivery Plan was published in November 2022, in order to enact the Strategy and to monitor progress against its objectives and targets. The Delivery Plan is based on the actual services and processes available from the University's waste contractor, so that initiatives set out in the Plan can actually be enacted on the ground; and that innovations proposed by the contractor can be included. Two further 3-year Delivery Plans will be written in 2024 and 2027.

Progress against the Strategy targets is shown in the University's Environmental Sustainability Report for 2021/22 and Environmental Sustainability Report for 2022/23.

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