Where Does Our Waste Go?

This page provides information on how our waste is managed, who manages it and where it goes.

For more information on what you can recycle or how to handle your waste, consult the Waste and Recycling A-Z.

For any clarification or further information do not hesitate to contact waste@reading.ac.uk.

Dry Mixed Recycling - cans, plastic bottles, tins, paper etc.

Once dry mixed recycling is placed in the recycling bins it is collected by the cleaners and porters and then placed in various wheelie bins across campus. The University's waste contractor then collects the waste and transports it to a Materials Recycling Facility (MRF) where recyclable materials are sorted into different types (e.g. plastics, cardboard, paper, metal) using a mixture of manual and automated methods. When the materials have been sorted, they are sent to re-processors and manufacturers where they are used to create new products.

Dry Mix Recycling Poster
Paper and Carboard Poster

Paper, Card and Confidential Waste

Paper and card is collected from wheelie bins across the campus by the University-approved waste contractor. Non-confidential paper and card waste is sent to a paper mill for recycling.

Confidential waste is shredded on site weekly by our waste contractors. It is then taken to the paper mill for recycling.

The paper recycling process begins with the paper products being separated into categories and then washed with soapy water to remove any inks, plastic film, staples and glue. This creates a slurry which different materials can be added to in order to create different paper related products (cardboard or office paper). The slurry is then rolled out and left to dry, rolled back up and then sent out to be used.

General Waste

The University's approved waste contractor collects general waste on campus from a variety of  wheelie bins and skips.  General waste should only be waste that cannot currently be recycled - please remember to segregate your waste correctly.  Most of the University's general waste is sent to an Energy From Waste (EfW) plant. This waste is burned with the resulting steam powering a turbine which generates electricity. The residual waste after the burning is either recycled (metals) or sent to landfill (ash).

If waste is not suitable for the EfW plant, and cannot be treated by another process, it might be sent to landfill. Less than 2% of University waste is taken to landfill.

General Waste Poster


Dry-cell batteries can be recycled on campus via collection points. Waste batteries are stored in kegs then collected by the University's approved waste contractor. The batteries are sorted at their transfer station and taken to a hazardous waste disposal facility.  Batteries are broken apart into pieces and placed into a vat where the lead and heavy materials fall to the bottom and the plastic floats. At this point, the plastic pieces are scooped away and the liquids are drawn off, leaving the lead and heavy metals. Each of the materials goes into a different recycling stream, where different materials are recycled in their own way.

Sanitary waste

Waste is collected by a contractor from individual sanitary waste bins on campus. The waste is collected and taken to an incineration plant for disposal.

Food Waste

Food waste from catering outlets on campus is collected by the University approved waste contractor via wheelie bins.  The primary disposal process for the University's food waste is anaerobic digestion, which produces renewable energy.

In an anaerobic digestion plant, organic waste is stored in an oxygen-free environment in the presence of a population of micro-organisms. In this anaerobic environment, biochemical reactions occur that convert organic matter into methane rich biogas and nutrient rich digestate. This biogas is then burnt in an engine to generate renewable energy. The resulting digestate is a nutrient rich liquid or sludge which is used to produce fertilizers.

IT Equipment

IT equipment that is broken or no longer in use, is collected centrally at the University. To dispose of your IT equipment, please submit a disposal request via the Online Disposal Request Form to arrange collection. The waste is collected by an approved contractor and taken to one of their facilities. The contractor may re-sell viable equipment or may strip down items to recycle individual parts. Any data-holding components are securely destroyed in line with University data protection policies.

Waste Cooking Oil

Cooking oil that has been used at the University's catering facilities is collected by a company that recycles and reuses the oil. The waste oil is sorted at a plant and processed to create biofuel. This biofuel can be used in vehicles and generators as an alternative to crude oil-derived fuel, giving an overall carbon saving. 


Unwanted wood is collected by the University's approved waste contractor and taken to a transfer station where it is sorted for re-use, recycling or incineration.

Wood from grounds maintenance activities is collected by ground contractors and used to produce mulch for the University's grounds.

Wooden pallets are sorted by the University's approved waste contractor, with re-usable pallets being sent back to transportation companies. Un-usable pallets are shredded and the wood is used to make chipboard or burnt as biomass fuel to generate electricity and/or heat.


Clinical Waste

Clinical waste is any waste which poses a threat of infection to humans. The term also includes drugs or other pharmaceutical products.

There are multiple solutions for the treatment of clinical waste, depending on whether it is infectious, non-infectious, or offensive hygiene waste.

Fluorescent Tubes

Fluorescent lamp tubes and compact fluorescent lamps (CFL), as well as bulbs from projectors, are classified as hazardous waste. Do not place these in the recycling or general waste bins. On campus the majority of fluorescent light tubes are collected centrally. The tubes are collected by the University approved waste contractor and sent to a recycling facility.

The lamps and tubes are pre-broken, washed to remove contaminants, and a distiller is then used to extract the elemental mercury and phosphor powder. The glass, metals and plastics are broken down into smaller pieces, these materials are then separated and sent on to other recycling plants for further recycling, and turned into something new.

Glass Recycling

All glass on campus is collected from bottle banks and bins by the University approved waste contractor. The glass is sent to be sorted and then sent to a glass furnace to produce new glass bottles and containers. This re-melt process can be repeated over and over again. This not only saves valuable natural resources but also saves energy and reduces overall carbon dioxide emissions.


Smaller items (tins, cans, foil) can be placed in the mixed recycling bins, which are then taken to a materials recycling facility (See Mixed Recycling above).

Larger items are collected on campus centrally and taken away for recycling.  The metal is compacted, or squeezed, and separated based on properties and then taken to a furnace that is specifically designed to melt that particular metal. After the molten metal is purified, it is cooled and solidified, then packaged to be reused.

Waste Electricals

Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) items are those that are powered by the mains or by batteries to carry out their primary function.  These should not be disposed of in the general waste. WEEE waste can also be deemed as hazardous waste if containing harmful substances. These items need to be stored safely and securely to prevent pollution in line with the Hazardous Waste Regulations and to prevent risk to health.

WEEE is collected on site centrally before being collected by the University's approved waste contractor. The waste is then taken to their transfer station, sorted and collected for recycling locally.


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