New project to test ‘innovative’ recycling methods in Irish universities

5 Oct 2021

IUA director general Jim Miley. Image: Jason Clarke

The IUA and EPA project will use university campuses as ‘living labs’, studying ways to improve waste management.

A new two-year project aims to make improvements to the way waste is disposed and recycled on Irish university campuses.

The Campus Living Labs project by the Irish Universities Association (IUA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will introduce behavioural and infrastructural changes in the waste management habits of eight Irish university campuses and study the outcomes.

Essentially, the project will use the campuses – which together have more than 162,000 students – as ‘living labs’ for trialling the new methods to improve waste management.

It will focus on reducing food waste and eliminating the use of single-use plastics in Irish universities and recommend improvements and best practices to improve overall sustainability.

“Collaborative efforts such as the Campus Living Labs project are important in helping us reach our national goals on waste prevention and transitioning to a circular economy,” Minister of State for Environment, Climate and Communications Ossian Smyth, TD, said.

Earlier this year, the Government published the first draft of its national circular economy strategy.

‘Shared learnings’

Campus Living Labs aims to meet wider national targets in Ireland such as the Climate Action Plan and the Waste Action Plan for a Cicular Economy announced last year.

EPA director general Laura Burke said the project’s announcement is timely because the Government is expected to publish a circular economy strategy document later this year.

“Project outcomes will allow the EPA to gather evidence and provide shared learnings that can be applied in the future to other third-level campus populations, or other types of campuses such as hospitals, airports, shopping centres or small towns,” she said.

In line with the Waste Action Plan, Campus Living Labs also aims to meet the objectives of halving food waste by 2030 and banning certain single-use plastics.

IUA director general Jim Miley said the joint initiative with the EPA will boost sustainability on university campuses through “innovative” interventions. “Irish universities will join in their efforts to make Irish campuses more sustainable in line with our national goals.’’

The IUA is a representative body of Dublin City University, NUI Galway, Maynooth University, Trinity College Dublin, TU Dublin, University College Cork, University College Dublin and University of Limerick.

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Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic