Best universities for recycling and sustainability

Explore the top 100 universities championing responsible consumption and production in the new Times Higher Education Impact Rankings 

May 26 2020
Best universities for recycling and reusing

Plastic use has become one of the biggest issues of this generation with bottles, bags, food packaging and straws littering our beaches and clogging up our oceans. 

While we still have a long way to go to rectify this, there are many things that you can do to make sure that you help to preserve the planet. And one of those is holding your university to account and understanding what they are doing to consume materials responsibly. 

The Times Higher Education Impact Rankings are a good place to start if you are looking to see which universities are dedicated to reducing plastic waste, are minimising the use of disposable items, are working to recycle more and have policies in place on the sourcing of ethical goods.

To put together this ranking we mapped how universities around the world are committing to the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs are a global call to action to tackle poverty, climate change and inequality. 

The SDGs look to tackle some of today’s biggest global issues and SDG 12 covers responsible consumption and production. More on the methodology of this SDG ranking can be found here.

1. UNSW Sydney

UNSW Sydney is dedicated to reducing water waste at the university and to ensuring that recycling is easily accessible for students and staff. 

The university launched an environmental sustainability plan which includes a pledge for 100 per cent use of solar power, a rainwater capture system, a Return and Earn reverse vending machine, a reduction in water waste and expanding facilities for cyclists. 

Many materials can be recycled right on campus including batteries and mobile phones, toner cartridges, plastic and many others. 

There is a furniture reuse programme to ensure that no piece of furniture goes to waste. 

2. Aalto University

Aalto University aims to integrate sustainability into all teaching courses as well as creating a number of master’s courses that focus directly on sustainability. 

There are also a number of minors that touch on sustainability. 

The Aalto Sustainability Hub was founded in 2018 and aims to “create a world-class research and learning environment focused on sustainability and circular economy”. There are more than 350 members and it manages a number of networks to cultivate sustainable practices at the institution. 

3. University of Manchester

The University of Manchester has produced a report outlining how it is committed to each individual SDG. In terms of SDG 12, the university is carrying out research in a number of relevant areas including improving chemical production, waste management issues and household sustainability. 

The bluedot music festival, held by the university, is free of single-use plastic, recycles the majority of waste, initiates car-sharing schemes, provides coaches for festival-goers, collects all food waste for composting and provides free water refill stations. Festival goers also have the opportunity to offset their carbon footprint. 

The university is also committed to using local suppliers and provides courses for students to learn more about responsible consumption. 

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4. Nottingham Trent University

Nottingham Trent University works closely with waste management specialists to ensure that 99 per cent of waste is diverted from landfill. 

The university has a number of recycling and reuse portals to ensure that materials are disposed of and reused in the correct way. Launched in 2018, the Warp It scheme has helped to redistribute unwanted furniture and equipment. It increases resource efficiency, reduces unnecessary procurement and waste disposal costs, and has helped to save costs in this area. 

5. Western Sydney University

There are a number of courses at Western Sydney University where students can learn more about sustainability and responsible consumption. 

A number of projects have also been undertaken at the university such as the Plastic Lid project: a large scale artwork constructed primarily from repurposed plastic bottle lids that depicted the issues with plastics in our oceans and their impact on marine life. More than 1,000 students over the eight campuses were involved in collecting the lids. 

Best universities for recycling and sustainability

Recycling and sustainability rank 2020 University Country/region
1 UNSW Sydney Australia
2 Aalto University Finland
3 University of Manchester United Kingdom
4 Nottingham Trent University United Kingdom
5 Western Sydney University Australia
6 Lappeenranta-Lahti University of Technology LUT Finland
7 Bangor University United Kingdom
8 Newcastle University United Kingdom
9 University of Leeds United Kingdom
10 Bournemouth University United Kingdom
11 University of Aberdeen United Kingdom
12 University of British Columbia Canada
=13 University of Edinburgh United Kingdom
=13 KTH Royal Institute of Technology Sweden
15 Dublin City University Republic of Ireland
=16 Polytechnic University of Valencia Spain
=16 University College Cork Republic of Ireland
18 Laval University Canada
19 Northumbria University United Kingdom
20 Arizona State University (Tempe) United States
21 York University Canada
22 University of Wollongong Australia
23 McMaster University Canada
24 University of Greenwich United Kingdom
25 University of Victoria Canada
26 King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi Thailand
=27 University of Leicester United Kingdom
=27 University of Strathclyde United Kingdom
29 De Montfort University United Kingdom
30 University of Auckland New Zealand
31 University of Bergen Norway
=32 University of Dundee United Kingdom
=32 Glasgow Caledonian University United Kingdom
34 University of Limerick Republic of Ireland
=35 Lehigh University United States
=35 Western University Canada
37 King’s College London United Kingdom
38 University of Calgary Canada
39 University of L’Aquila Italy
40 Tilburg University Netherlands
41 Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur India
=42 University of Beira Interior Portugal
=42 National Cheng Kung University (NCKU) Taiwan
44 University of Gothenburg Sweden
45 Durham University United Kingdom
46 City, University of London United Kingdom
47 Trinity College Dublin Republic of Ireland
48 Waseda University Japan
=49 Diponegoro University Indonesia
=49 Peter the Great St Petersburg Polytechnic University Russian Federation
=49 University of Sydney Australia
52 Tohoku University Japan
53 RMIT University Australia
54 University of Toronto Canada
=55 Simon Fraser University Canada
=55 Tzu Chi University of Science and Technology Taiwan
57 Monash University Australia
58 University of Maryland, Baltimore County United States
59 University of the Basque Country Spain
60 Hiroshima University Japan
61 University of Lausanne Switzerland
62 Concordia University Canada
=63 National Chi Nan University Taiwan
=63 Shinshu University Japan
=65 University of Tasmania Australia
=65 University of Worcester United Kingdom
=67 University of Minho Portugal
=67 Oregon State University United States
=69 IMT Mines Alès France
=69 University of Waterloo Canada
71 Massey University New Zealand
72 McGill University Canada
73 Universiti Tenaga Nasional (UNITEN) Malaysia
74 University of Malaga Spain
75 University of Malaya Malaysia
76 University of Westminster United Kingdom
77 Hokkaido University Japan
78 National University of Sciences and Technology Pakistan
79 National Autonomous University of Mexico Mexico
80 Yamaguchi University Japan
81 Autonomous University of Barcelona Spain
=82 Hong Kong Baptist University Hong Kong
=82 Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam Netherlands
84 University of São Paulo Brazil
=85 University of Aveiro Portugal
=85 Pontifical Bolivarian University (UPB) – Medellín Colombia
=87 Chulalongkorn University Thailand
=87 University of Indonesia Indonesia
=87 Technological University of Pereira Colombia
90 EAFIT University Colombia
91 Chiba University Japan
92 Osaka University Japan
93 Asia University, Taiwan Taiwan
94 Bath Spa University United Kingdom
95 Hindustan Institute of Technology and Science India
96 University of Geneva Switzerland
97 Czech University of Life Sciences Prague (CULS) Czech Republic
=98 Colorado State University, Fort Collins United States
=98 Iran University of Medical Sciences Iran
100 Benha University Egypt

View the full ranking here 

Reader's comments (1)

Thanks for listing the top universities for recycling and waste management. I am about to pursue my higher education in sustainable recycling. My uncle, who works at told me about the thriving opportunities in the waste management industry.

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