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SU collects and diverts more than 1 000 tonnes of waste each year from its campuses

Last year Stellenbosch University diverted more than 1 000 tonnes collected on three of its five campuses away from landfill, a significant step towards its goal of achieving net zero by 2050.

  • SU's centralised Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) on the Stellenbosch campus sorted and diverted more than 1 000 tonnes of waste away from landfill in 2023
  • With an annual diversion-away-from-landfill rate of 74 percent, SU is performing well above the 50 percent average reported by other universities
  • SU last year diverted and recycled more than 10.4 tonnes of e-waste
SU collects and diverts more than 1 000 tonnes of waste each year from its campuses
SU collects and diverts more than 1 000 tonnes of waste each year from its campuses

The University is guided on its net zero journey by its Environmental Sustainability Plan alongside the United Nations's (UN) 2030Agenda guide, with its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

During the week of 22-26 April 2024, SU celebrated Earth Week and Earth Day. Supporting the world theme of Planet vs Plastics, Facilities Management's Environmental Sustainability team and partners raised awareness for waste reduction on campus through two waste installations on the Rooiplein and at the Engineering Faculty during Earth Week.  

The waste towers on the Rooiplein represented two days of waste produced on the Stellenbosch campus. The 3,000 kg of waste equals around 30 bales, which SU's centralised Material Recycling Facility (MRF) produces after they sort the waste they collect daily. Of this 3,000 kg of waste, SU recycles x28 percent, sends 46 percent for composting, and 26 percent to landfill. The MRF on the Stellenbosch campus sorts waste and diverts it away from landfill and in 2023, more than 1 million kg of waste, mostly plastic and paper, were collected and diverted from landfill. 

Since this facility was built, SU has succeeded in reducing its waste-to-landfill. We currently send only 26 percent to landfill. SU's goal is to get to zero waste-to-landfill by 2028, says John de Wet, SU's Environmental Sustainability Manager.

As part of its efforts towards a greener future, aligned with these goals, the University has invested heavily in various energy, water, waste, and biodiversity programmes on all its campuses, says De Wet. Initiatives include a three-bin sorting system on all campuses, the MRF, the installation of water-saving taps, shower heads and cisterns in residences, grey water systems to recycle shower water and provide water for flushing of toilets, waterwise landscaping and the installation of photovoltaic panels on the roof of five buildings to reduce carbon emissions and utility costs. 

For SU to reach its net zero target, it needs to decrease its carbon emissions from 85 241 tCO2e to as close to zero as possible, explains De Wet. "Waste is one of the elements in this journey, and SU's diversion-away-from-landfill rate is currently at an impressive annual average of 74 percent - well above the 50 percent average reported by other universities."

Most recently, in support of SU's contribution to reaching Goal 12: responsible consumption and production, and to raise awareness about Global Recycling Day marked on 18 March, the Environmental Sustainability team at SU's Facilities Management partnered with the UNASA (United Nations Association of SA) student society, Wasteplan, and eWASA (EPR Waste Association of South Africa) and hosted a successful e-waste recycling drive on the Stellenbosch campus.

On the day, Christine Groenewald, SU's Environmental Sustainability Coordinator: Engagement, said: "We want to create awareness of the significance of keeping e-waste out of landfill sites." Electronic waste, or e-waste, contains numerous chemicals and heavy metals that can risk human and ecological health. On the day, the collected e-waste filled four yellow wheelie bins, weighing just over 62kgs, says Groenewald. Items included keyboards, kettles, charging cables, old phones and batteries, accounting for a third of all the e-waste collected. 

Other recent milestones include the certification by the Green Building Council of South Africa of 18 buildings on the Stellenbosch campus, and the City of Cape Town's awarding of 5-star and 3-star ratings to the Tygerberg and Bellville campuses for effective water management. Water-wise strategies at Tygerberg resulted in a significant 30 percent reduction in potable water consumption, while Bellville's potable water supply now comes from a deepwater lake and reverse osmoses plant resulted in minimal water supply coming from the City's network. 

SU's Sustainable Development Impact Hub (SDG/2063 Impact Hub), established in late 2021 to help the University become more systemically sustainable and highlight contributions to the UN and AU's agendas, has just released its second Sustainable Development Annual Report (2022/2023) A Sustainable Africa: Partnerships for Progress.  

Corina du Toit, Programme Manager at the Hub, (situated within the Centre for Collaboration in Africa at SU International), says: "The report shows how through embracing partnerships and collaboration, SU's sustainability journey aligned with the 17 SDGs and 20 AU Goals is making a significant impact not only on our community but also nationally and throughout Africa as it takes the lead in driving future-forward, research, policy, and change." 

For queries, Christine Groenewald at

29 Apr 2024 10:38