Zerowaste is possible!

A chronicle of waste minimisation and recycling in NUS

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Exam Recycling AY0910 Semester 1

ZeroWaste-Exams Sem1 Ay0910

Following the last exam papers recycling, this time we do not use the green bulk bins at all now but proper paper reycling bins that are blue. I do hope that we don’t see the amount of rubbish like we did the last time.

Following the “>last exam paper recycling,
Lesson 1 of not using green bulk bin learned.

Lesson 2 of not installing so many paper recycling bins – half learned. I didn’t intend to make do with only one 330L and two 120L paper recycling bins, I wanted to have one for each MPSH but surprisingly, the old 330L paper recycling bin we left there the last time is gone!!

Lesson 3: Poster on the wall. I want to put up the poster but Abu said SRC will not allow. This really got me mad but I didn’t want to spend disproportionate amount of time fighting the system. Besides, we learnt from the last time that there aren’t much notes recycling as well.

We see if there will be more collection this time.
However, I think the biggest improvement that we did to the system was to have a “>spoke and hub.

Previously, Abu and his team of housekeepers will just throw the papers from the exam halls away. Now, we manage with Veolia to have a temporary pick up point at MPSH.

Benefits that a spoke and Hub system can bring

With effect from August 09, NUS has started on a spoke and hub system for recycling – at least for paper and continuing with cans and bottles in November.

More details about the system and the FAQ can be found here.

This system needs the housekeeping staff support to collect all the recyclables and the biggest benefit is that we can now set up as many recycling points as possible.

This is evidenced by the setting up green boxes of individual faculty staff in Engineering as highlighted here.

This is important because although NUS has progressed with respect to contamination, we have still missed out the one of the largest source of our paper waste to be recycled – the faculty staff who has individual rooms.

Improper carton recycling at YIH….

Messy YIH 2Messy YIH 1

This was what happened at YIH during the week of 3rd-7th August.

Cartons were littered all over the place despite us putting up signage and having labelled bins ( all circled in red) in the area. To make matter worse, the bulk bins that are allocated for carton recycling itself are not used.

We wrote to Sharon of YIH IT Coop and Chin Hoon of retail and dining to help us inform their staff and canteen vendor of this issue.

Current Recycling Situation at Kuok Foundation House

Currently have 2 paper bulk bins that is collected by Mr Tan, also have 1 set of plastic bottles and drinks cans recycling points.

The above info was checked with  Mr Chan Kim Lim at 65168569.

Until Raffles Hall is set up as  a recycling collection centre, we can not target to collect more plastic bottles and drink cans from Kuok Foundation House.   Paper currently served well by Mr Tan.

BTC and Duke NUS recycling facilities

Bukit Timah Campus Recycling Status:

1. Paper:

  • Currently collected by Sembcorp cleaners from the offices to bulk bin centre
  • Consists of Newspapers and shredded paper.
  • Recycling of the collected paper is done by the cleaners over there.

2. Aluminiun Cans and Plastic Bottles:

  • 3 sets of which one set is at the canteen. The set at the canteen is sorted out by canteen vendor
  • 2 other sets are handled by the cleaners
  • Whether the recyclables are recycled or not, depends on the cleaners.

They are not keen to participate in our recycling masterplan as correctly pointed out, the volume of recyclables is small and it is too out of the way from the NUS Kent Ridge Campus.

Duke NUS Graduate Medical School:

1. Have liased with them and they have contacted a paper recycler to collect at a centralized locations for their 2 new blocks.

In short, both premises don’t need to be included in NUS Kent Ridge recycling contract and that should make it easier to set up new combined recycling contract.

Follow up on Paper Recycling for Exam Halls.

Last year, through locating paper recycling bins (may-2008-exam-recycling-experience), 109 kg for paper was collected over the exam period. It is good but still not impressive, considering that thousands of students had their exams over that 2 week period. For Open House, we are probably able to collect much more recyclables (bottles and cans) over the 2 days.

This time, the collection is much worse as seen in the photos:

mpsh-1 paper collection in bulk bin

mpsh-2 paper recycling

mpsh-2 paper recycling

mpsh-5 exams paper recycling

mpsh-5 exams paper recycling

mpsh-6 paper recycling exams

mpsh-6 paper recycling exams

After walking the ground on 2 separate occasions and talking to Abu, here are some lessons:

1. Although an email circular was sent out with the photo of the bulk bin, bulk bin just doesn’t reconcile with the students for recycling.

2. Abu still requires one or two bulk bins for him to recycle the paper collected from the exam invigilators. Although, they have been collecting the paper but they have not been recycling them.

What should we do next exam:

1. Have 1-2 bulk bins for Abu to recycle papers from exam invigilators. Can double up as recycling points for students.

2. Couple above with the current paper recycling bins at MPSH (2 sets). No need to deploy more as recycling rate of notes after exams is rather low. Maybe students do not want to part with them.

3. Most importantly, site the recycling bins/points with a poster above them. It is not enough to have it on the bin itself.

Poster above bin 2008

Poster above bin 2008

Earth Day Highlight: Which Faculty recycles best? Latest survey results tell it all.

To: All NUS Faculty, Staff Members and Students

1. A survey on the contamination of recycling bins was conducted on 3/2/09 and 12/3/09. This contamination survey measures the presence of wastes that cannot be recycled or recyclable wastes that were thrown into the wrong bins.

2. This survey was conducted to measure the impacts of the revamp of the NUS recycling infrastructure that Office of Estate and Development, Office of Environmental Sustainability and NUSSU Student Against Violation of the Earth (SAVE) embarked in November 2008. The changes implemented included adding additional instructional labels (the types of wastes which can and cannot be recycled) on top of recycling bins and partnering every recycling station with a general waste bin.

3. We are pleased to announce that after such improvements, there was low contamination rate throughout most recycling bins in campus –correct recyclables collected in most recycling bins are above 75% of the total volume of items collected.

4. Listed below are the performance of the various faculties in the contamination of recycling bins survey (in descending order):

a. Faculty of Arts and Social Science (most segregated)

b. Faculty of Science

c. Faculty of Business

d. Faculty of Engineering ( highest level of contamination)

5. DO YOUR PART: By contaminating the bins, efforts of others who recycle properly may go to waste. Read the bin labels before throwing.

6. ACT RIGHT: Please throw the recyclable materials in the correct bin.

Recycling Bin




Any documents, magazines or newspaper

Food contaminated paper

Paper cups, tissue


Aluminum drink cans only



EMPTY plastic bottles only

Food contaminated plastics.

7. TIP OF THE SEMESTER: Empty your plastic bottle or aluminum drink can before throwing it into the recycling bin.

8. Last but not least, OES would like to show our utmost appreciation to SAVE students for painstakingly inspecting every single recycling bin in NUS. Thank you!

Yours Sincerely,

Note: For a complete circular with photos, download recycling-email-circular-090415

Recycle your Exam notes 09! Campus and Halls.

Last year experiment and report by Su Ming for May 2008 stated that narrow recycling bins with slits are the best bins to prevent contamination.  Sadly, we have been zealous in deploying our bins so we have none to spare this year. Let’s hope the photo of the bin inside the poster will help.  Things done this year:

  • With the help of OED, bulk bins were made available for students to recycle their unwanted notes.
  • A photo of the actual bulk bin used was inserted into the poster.  Will it be useful?
  • Message of the Day for students.  Useful?
  • An email was also sent out to the exam invigilators. Did it reach?

Anyway, May 2008, only 6.1kg of paper were collected. Let’s see the results this year!

On the halls areas, as bulk bins were already purchased for them in the past, we only provided them with the recyclers contact and the posters that we used.   We also offered our services to modify the posters.  Is it enough? Or such services is just simply lame?

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