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Best universities for recycling and sustainability 2022

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

May 26 2022
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 have a long way to go to rectify this, there are many things you can do to help to preserve the planet. And one of those is holding your university to account and understanding what it’s 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, minimising the use of disposable items and working to recycle more, and which have policies in place for sourcing ethical goods.

To put together this ranking we mapped how universities around the world are committing to the United Nations’ 17 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 for this ranking can be found here.

1. University of Canterbury

The University of Canterbury was the first university campus in New Zealand to be recognised as entirely Fair Trade by the Fair Trade Association of Australia and New Zealand. 

The university has a range of courses that promote sustainable consumption. This includes the natural products properties and production course, which encourages students to think about the ethics of using resources from nature. The university’s business school is also a signatory of the Principles for Responsible Management Education movement, which aims to realise the SDGs through responsible management education.

The university has implemented a thorough waste management plan to encourage its community to think about how to dispose of items in a sustainable way and will be conducting an audit to explore whether this has been successful. 

2. Western Sydney University

In 2017 Western Sydney University signed the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network Higher Education Commitment. This means that the university has committed to undertaking research in sustainable development, providing courses for students in sustainable development and responsible consumption and ensuring its campus is environmentally sustainable and socially inclusive. 

The university undertakes a range of sustainability-related research, including sustainable agriculture, soil biology and food security. 

It has a range of living labs on its campus to aid with teaching and research in areas such as renewable energy, water recycling and and natural and cultural heritage. 

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3. University of Technology Sydney

The University of Technology Sydney has created a plan to phase out single-use plastic packaging and in 2019 opened Australia’s first fully plastic free food court. 

The university also processes 50 tonnes of food waste on campus each year into soil conditioner that is sent off to local farms to grow crops, which are then sent back to the university for food.

4. Bournemouth University

Bournemouth University has a range of procedures in place to reduce waste and reuse materials across campus. 

In 2019 the university didn’t send any waste to landfill and recycled 75 per cent of its waste. All of its food and non-recyclable waste is used in energy production. 

The university created a Climate and Ecological Crisis Action Plan that sets out how it plans to achieve net zero emissions by 2030/31. Bournemouth has already reduced its emissions by 45 per cent in the past 10 years. 

=5. Bangor University

Bangor University has a range of measures on campus to continue to improve its sustainability. The students’ union has performed well in the United Nations Green Impact Award for the past five years for its commitment to improving sustainable practices among the student body.

This includes the End of Term Halls Reuse Drive which encourages students to donate and sell any items they don’t need at the end of year, and the Think Before you Drink campaign that asks staff and students to think about their plastic straw and cup usage. 

=5. National University of Ireland, Galway

The National University of Ireland, Galway has signed the SDG Accord, which means it is committed to embedding the SDGs into its education, research, leadership, operations, administration and engagement activities.

Students can also get involved by joining dedicated clubs such as the environmental society, the energy society, the organic gardening society and the vegan society.

Best universities for recycling and sustainability 2022

Recycling and sustainability rank 2022 University Country/region
1 University of Canterbury New Zealand
2 Western Sydney University Australia
3 University of Technology Sydney Australia
4 Bournemouth University United Kingdom
=5 Bangor University United Kingdom
=5 National University of Ireland, Galway Ireland
=7 University of Manchester United Kingdom
=7 University of Reading United Kingdom
9 University of Leicester United Kingdom
10 Newcastle University United Kingdom
11 Arizona State University (Tempe) United States
12 University of Victoria Canada
13 University College Cork Ireland
14 Swansea University United Kingdom
15 University of Southern Denmark Denmark
=16 University of Essex United Kingdom
=16 King’s College London United Kingdom
18 KTH Royal Institute of Technology Sweden
=19 University of British Columbia Canada
=19 Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University United States
21 University of Glasgow United Kingdom
22 Brunel University London United Kingdom
23 York University Canada
=24 Université Laval Canada
=24 University of Surrey United Kingdom
26 University of Calgary Canada
27 UCL United Kingdom
28 Western University Canada
29 University of Sussex United Kingdom
30 De Montfort University United Kingdom
31 University of Auckland New Zealand
32 University of Edinburgh United Kingdom
33 Hindustan Institute of Technology and Science India
34 University of East Anglia United Kingdom
=35 Queen’s University Belfast United Kingdom
=35 UNSW Sydney Australia
37 Nottingham Trent University United Kingdom
38 Universiti Sains Malaysia Malaysia
39 Yonsei University (Seoul campus) South Korea
40 University of Exeter United Kingdom
41 An-Najah National University Palestine
42 Prince Mohammad Bin Fahd University Saudi Arabia
43 La Trobe University Australia
44 Wageningen University & Research Netherlands
45 New York University United States
46 University of Westminster United Kingdom
47 Dublin City University Ireland
48 University of the Sunshine Coast Australia
49 University of Sydney Australia
50 Massey University New Zealand
=51 University of Greenwich United Kingdom
=51 Kyoto University Japan
53 Luiss Guido Carli Italy
=54 Aalto University Finland
=54 Symbiosis International University India
56 New Jersey Institute of Technology United States
=57 King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi Thailand
=57 Sakarya University Turkey
=59 University of Indonesia Indonesia
=59 University of Tasmania Australia
61 Lappeenranta-Lahti University of Technology LUT Finland
62 RMIT University Australia
63 University of Waterloo Canada
64 University of Strathclyde United Kingdom
65 University of Northampton United Kingdom
66 Lovely Professional University India
67 National University of Sciences and Technology Pakistan
=68 University of Johannesburg South Africa
=68 University of Waikato New Zealand
70 University of Dundee United Kingdom
=71 Chiang Mai University Thailand
=71 University of Maryland, Baltimore County United States
=73 Kobe University Japan
=73 Tunghai University Taiwan
75 Glasgow Caledonian University United Kingdom
76 Pusan National University South Korea
=77 City, University of London United Kingdom
=77 Kyung Hee University South Korea
79 Trinity College Dublin Ireland
80 Chulalongkorn University Thailand
81 Charles Sturt University Australia
=82 University of Girona Spain
=82 University of Liverpool United Kingdom
84 University of Florence Italy
=85 EAFIT University Colombia
=85 University of Tsukuba Japan
=87 Lehigh University United States
=87 National Cheng Kung University (NCKU) Taiwan
89 National Yang Ming Chiao Tung University Taiwan
=90 Cardiff University United Kingdom
=90 University of Groningen Netherlands
=90 University Rey Juan Carlos Spain
93 Chitkara University India
=94 University of Alberta Canada
=94 Polytechnic University of Valencia Spain
96 KEDGE Business School (Bordeaux) France
97 Concordia University Canada
98 Monterrey Institute of Technology Mexico
99 University of Otago New Zealand
100 Kyushu University Japan

View the full ranking here 

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