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Sorted waste ends up back together

The new rubbish bins in the UG buildings enable people to sort their waste into five categories: organic waste, plastic, paper, cups, and general waste. But what happens next?

Various employees tipped off UKrant, saying the five different bins are emptied out into only two large containers. We checked out the waste collection points at a few faculties and found only two types of containers: one for paper, and one for general waste. So what’s the deal?

‘We’re in a transitional phase’, sighs Yonne Klein Kranenbrug with the services department. She is in charge of cleaning and waste collection, and she’s been fielding questions about the waste project. She’s happy that people are so enthusiastic, but ‘there have also been a few assumptions and some gossip about this enormous project’. She’d like to quash the rumours.

Sorting our waste is a nice idea, but are all the different types of waste processed separately?

It takes some prodding, but Klein Kranenburg finally admits that this isn’t happening – yet. The company that processes the paper waste also processes the paper cups, she says. ‘Because there aren’t that many paper cups being used right now, the company said they can go with the paper for now.’

As soon as the volume increases, especially when students return, the paper cups will be processed separately, says Klein Kranenburg. The cups will then be turned into toilet paper.

It’s also true that plastic is not being processed separately right now, she says. That won’t change any time soon either; at the Attero waste procession station in Wijster, any usable plastic is separated from the general waste. It’s called subsequent separation. All waste in the municipality of Groningen is processed in this manner.

Why are students and staff expected to sort their waste then?

‘Because we hope that the future will see a solution to plastic processing. This way, people will have got used to sorting the waste when that time comes.’

What about organic waste?

Organic waste is collected separately and then composted, says Klein Kranenburg. ‘It goes in the containers behind the restaurants, where Beyk also disposes of its waste.’ That’s why you don’t see those containers at all of the waste collection points. 

‘If we need more containers, we’ll put them there’, she says. ‘But it depends on how good people are at sorting their waste. The whole project depends on whether people care enough to remove their banana peel from their coffee cup before throwing either away.’

The larger bins, which were often overflowing, have now been removed from the classrooms and replaced by smaller bins in the hallways. Won’t they overflow, too?

‘Our supplier advised us on the best bin placement’, says Klein Kranenburg. ‘They’re the expert, so we defer to them.’ Since eating and drinking in classrooms is forbidden, they put the waste bins in the hallways. The contract manager has told the people who empty the bins how full they’re allowed to be. ‘If we find that we have to empty the bins every single hour, we’ll add more bins or empty them more often.’ 

It’ll take a while before everyone’s used to the new system, says Klein Kranenburg. ‘We have to be careful not to immediately add more bins. If you remove bins later, people get mad. They weren’t happy when we removed bins from offices, either.’

Oh right, you took all the bins there. That means employees have to go out into the hallways to throw out their waste from now on?

‘It’s the only way to sort your waste, isn’t it? Think of it as a free break’, Klein Kranenburg jokes. ‘Take a walk, get your mind off things. If you’re getting more coffee or walking to a meeting, you can throw out your trash on the way.’

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