Riddle me this. 13% of you just simply don’t have time to recycle. 50% of you can’t even remember getting any information on recycling at all. Only 54.8% of you are committed recyclers. Chances are you also enjoy a pint or two at your local.

Who are you?

A student.

Students from all over Scotland are starting to address the issue of waste by reducing, reusing and recycling in ever new and innovative ways (read on to find out more). However, there is still much to done.

In 2013 SITA and NUS joined forces to conduct the first UK study involving over 500,000 students on student attitudes and behaviours towards recycling and waste called Lifting the Lid. It was found that:

  • UK university students are half as likely as the rest of Britain to be committed recyclers.
  • Students blame space and time shortages for reduced recycling rates, although many are donating items for re-use to charity.
  • Easy-to-use recycling systems could help improve recycling rates on campus.

In the Changeworks’ Waste Team (otherwise known as ‘The Wasters’), we are all about making waste a thing of the past. As part of our Waste Wise Volunteer project, we work with universities and colleges across Edinburgh to engage students and staff on what they can do to go waste free and why. Having been part of promoting campaigns for many years on waste and sustainability to students, I can tell you it isn’t easy!

So how’s it going? The good news is that a key motivator for students to recycle and reduce waste is reported to be the environmental benefits of recycling along with a belief that they are doing the right thing. With funding from Zero Waste Scotland (ZWS), we have recruited a team of Waste Wise Volunteers to spread the wisdom on going waste free. Along with our Waste Team, they attend events with organisations such as the SHRUB Swap and Reuse Hub, speak to other staff and students at campus events and assist in the delivery of upcycling or repair workshops. Through these engagements, the volunteers direct people to information and resources from campaigns such as Love Food Hate Waste, Love Your Clothes and Recycle for Scotland. It’s with these volunteers that we hope the legacy of the Waste Wise Volunteer project will live on for Edinburgh to one day be waste free! There’s always plenty to do, so if you’re based in Edinburgh and want to join our team, drop us an email.

If you don’t live in Edinburgh and still fancy doing your bit, check out the ZWS website for a list of groups you could volunteer with across Scotland.

Finally, for a little inspiration, check out some other amazing ways students and community groups have found to work towards zero waste:

  • St AndRe-Use is an award winning reuse initiative at the University of St Andrews which co-ordinates collections and distributions of items that would otherwise be thrown away in the end of term clear out. In 2013-14 they collected nearly a tonne of reusable items which were given new homes by over 700 students in St Andrews.
  • The Radial Project at the Glasgow School of Art is a creative initiative dedicated to tackling waste and connecting staff and students on sustainability issues. In February 2016, they created the first cross Glasgow festival celebrating student zero waste action.
  • Aberdeen University students have chosen to raise awareness of fashion waste through using recycled items to create eye catching window displays in charity shops around Aberdeen. Could you do this for your local charity shops?
  • The Shrub Swap and Reuse Hub is Edinburgh’s hub for creative reuse. In three years it’s grown into an exciting community hub for sustainable living. They offer creative reuse workshops, swap shops and even give away items for free that would otherwise be wasted. 


Hanna Plant





Hanna Plant is Changeworks’ Waste Team Manager