Best universities for recycling and sustainability

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

July 25 2019
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 University 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 11 of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs are a global call to action to tackle poverty, climate change and inequality. Among the goals we have included in the ranking are those on good health and well-being, reduced inequalities and climate action. 

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. University College Cork

University College Cork in Ireland has collected an impressive set of statistics in regards to waste reduction and sustainability. They have cut their total wasted tonnes by 25 per cent, increased landfill diversion by 98 per cent and significantly reduced the amount of printing by students. 

The Green Campus Programme was established due to the lack of recycling facilities on campus and to tackle waste management. The programme has since expanded to cover a seven-step programme that covers energy, waste, water, biodiversity and transport. 

Students can also join "green teams" or a number of the sustainable societies to get involved in the schemes and inform new guidelines. 

2. Newcastle University

Newcastle University is one of the most sustainable universities in the UK and has made good progress in waste reduction and the increased use of public transport among students. 

The Sustainability Team is responsible for a variety of environmental sustainability issues including energy, waste management and travel planning. 

They created a sustainability policy in 2017 committing to a number of measures to promote responsible consumption. Some of these measures include a waste minimisation strategy, maintaining a high recycling rate, implementing sustainable construction and minimising water use. 

3. University of Dundee

The University of Dundee has a number of policies in place dedicated to specific areas of action in waste management. 

The waste policy is committed to the "reduce, reuse, recycle" mantra and considers the whole life cycle of resources when procuring goods. Figures on recycling have gone up and are continuing to rise. 

The university also has a web based portal called Warp-it to enable used furniture to be re-homed to someone new thus reducing waste and landfill charges.


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4. University of Eastern Finland

The University of Eastern Finland has committed to a number of principles which aim to make the university greener and more sustainable.

They are aiming to be an entirely paperless campus and aim to use only electronic internal communication and avoiding printing where possible.  Staff and students are encouraged to reuse as much as possible including ink cartridges and furniture. 

The university is also committed to increasing recycling and minimising landfill waste. 

5. University of Aberdeen

The University of Aberdeen has a number of initiatives for staff and students that help to reduce waste and encourage the use of sustainable products. 

One such example is encouraging students, staff and the public to donate damaged electrical items for recycling. The university also adheres to Scotland's Zero Waste Plan which sets out the Scottish Government's vision for a zero waste society. 

The university has also refitted taps and plumbing systems to minimise waster waste. 


Best universities for recycling and sustainability

Rank 2019 University Country/Region
1 University College Cork Republic of Ireland
2 Newcastle University United Kingdom
3 University of Dundee United Kingdom
4 University of Eastern Finland Finland
5 University of Aberdeen United Kingdom
6 Aalto University Finland
7 Bournemouth University United Kingdom
8 University of Manchester United Kingdom
9 University of Strathclyde United Kingdom
=10 City, University of London United Kingdom
=10 University of Gothenburg Sweden
12 University of Southampton United Kingdom
13 King’s College London United Kingdom
14 University of Leicester United Kingdom
15 University of Bergen Norway
16 JSS Academy of Higher Education and Research India
17 University of Worcester United Kingdom
18 Laval University Canada
19 Arizona State University United States
=20 Autonomous University of Barcelona Spain
=20 Polytechnic University of Valencia Spain
22 York University Canada
23 Brunel University London United Kingdom
24 Özyeğin University Turkey
25 University of L’Aquila Italy
26 Tzu Chi University Taiwan
27 Monash University Australia
28 New York University United States
=29 Auckland University of Technology New Zealand
=29 National Cheng Kung University (NCKU) Taiwan
31 Mie University Japan
32 UNSW Sydney Australia
33 Kyoto University Japan
34 University of Waterloo Canada
35 Oregon State University United States
36 McGill University Canada
37 Western Sydney University Australia
38 Bangor University United Kingdom
39 Kagawa University Japan
40 Kanazawa University Japan
41 University of Girona Spain
42 Dublin City University Republic of Ireland
43 Colorado State University United States
44 Yokohama City University Japan
45 RMIT University Australia
46 Monterrey Institute of Technology Mexico
47 University of Queensland Australia
48 National Yunlin University of Science and Technology Taiwan
49 University of Costa Rica Costa Rica
50 Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam Netherlands
=51 University of Iceland Iceland
=51 Massey University New Zealand
53 University Rey Juan Carlos Spain
54 Boğaziçi University Turkey
=55 University of Maryland, Baltimore County United States
=55 Universiti Sains Malaysia Malaysia
57 Diponegoro University Indonesia
58 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill United States
59 University of Nantes France
60 Hong Kong Baptist University Hong Kong
61 University of Malaya Malaysia
62 Czech University of Life Sciences Prague (CULS) Czech Republic
63 Modul University Vienna Austria
64 Chiba University Japan
65 University of Aveiro Portugal
66 The University of Tokyo Japan
=67 Federal University of Ceará (UFC) Brazil
=67 University of Winchester United Kingdom
69 Universiti Tenaga Nasional (UNITEN) Malaysia
70 NED University of Engineering and Technology Pakistan
71 National Autonomous University of Mexico Mexico
72 Abdullah Gül University Turkey
73 Yamaguchi University Japan
=74 Bogor Agricultural University Indonesia
=74 University of Malaga Spain
76 University of Helsinki Finland
77 University of Vigo Spain
78 Nagaoka University of Technology Japan
79 Metropolitan Autonomous University Mexico
80 University of A Coruña Spain
=81 Osaka University Japan
=81 Technological University of Pereira Colombia
=83 University of Calabria Italy
=83 Glasgow Caledonian University United Kingdom
=83 Universiti Teknologi Malaysia Malaysia
86 Seikei University Japan
87 Peter the Great St Petersburg Polytechnic University Russian Federation
=88 Babol Noshirvani University of Technology Iran
=88 Erciyes University Turkey
=88 Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur India
=88 Tokyo City University Japan
90 University of Greenwich United Kingdom
91 Federal University of São Paulo (UNIFESP) Brazil
92 University of the North, Colombia Colombia
93 Chaoyang University of Technology Taiwan
=94 Aix-Marseille University France
=94 National Tsing Hua University Taiwan
=96 Kafrelsheikh University Egypt
=96 Queensland University of Technology Australia
=96 University of Valencia Spain
98 University of Malakand Pakistan
=99 University of Rovira i Virgili Spain
=99 Voronezh State University Russian Federation

Read more: #UniAdviceWeek: lessons in sustainability from a student in Stockholm 

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