Sustainable UCL


Check before you chuck

Let’s make the most out of our recycling at UCL. Our goal is to recycle 85% of our waste, that's 1,811 tonnes of material or 151 double buses!

The recycling system can only cope with a small amount of contamination (wrong materials, food or liquid). We want to make sure we’re recycling the good stuff: clean and dry paper, cans and plastic bottles! If in doubt, use the black rubbish bin. Food waste and organic material is sent to anaerobic digestion for fuel; our recycling is sorted and handled in Kent and what’s left and can’t be recycled is recovered for energy in Avonmouth.

Image of recycling

Dirty and Wet Rubbish

This bin is for non-recyclable items like the scruchable plastics that make crisp packets and chocolate wrappers. Dirty or wet food packaging and biodegradable packaging goes in here too. These materials are incinerated and the heat they produce is used to generate energy.  

Use these bins for:

  • Packaging contaminated with food or liquid
  • Coffee cups, including biodegradable and compostable ones
  • PPE such as masks or gloves
  • Chewing gum
  • Polystyrene
  • Soft or scrunchy plastics like crisp packets, chocolate wrappers, plastic bags and cling film
  • Compostable or biodegradable plates and cutlery
  • Used and dirty tissues and hand towels

See how your waste gets turned into energy waste here.

Only empty, clean and dry Recycling 

This bin is for all dry, empty, food-free, recyclable material. These materials are sorted in a facility in Kent to ensure that the highest possible amount of recyclable material is retained.  

Use these bins for:

  • Paper 
  • Cardboard, including coffee cup sleeves and sandwich boxes with the plastic separated
  • Drinks cans
  • Plastic drinks bottles
  • Cartons, like tetrapack
  • Glass
  • Clean plastic containers
  • If you are unsure, or the item is dirty, please use the black rubbish bin to avoid contamination

See how your waste is recycled here.

Just Food

This bin is for all food products and things like teabags and coffee grounds. These materials are taken off-site and broken down using anaerobic digestion which turns it into fuel. 

Use these bins for:

  • Tea bags and coffee grounds
  • Fruit and vegetables
  • Meat and fish
  • Bread
  • Dairy products
  • Rice, pasta and beans
  • Eggs and eggshells

Find out how anerobic digestion works here.



In labs you may also put the following clean items in our recycling bins. We ask that you remove any labels from items being recycled:

  • Tip boxes (or use a manufacturer’s collection scheme)
  • Packaging (e.g. separated sleeves, bags and wraps from sterile consumables, clean bottles)
  • Hand towels
  • Paper/cardboard

Can’t find what you’re looking for? 

Although most of the waste we generate will fit into one of these three waste streams, some won't, like batteries and electrical items. Other waste may be hazardous, require specialist recycling, or may be unwanted but still usable. Find out more

    Please note: Toner cartridges, batteries and electrical items should be recycled in dedicated bins.