Published 17th of August 2020

Data privacy is a growing concern for High Education institutions and many universities are looking to keep their confidential information outside of malicious third-party hands, whether in digital or physical copies. As a result, scheduled on-site and off-site confidential collections are increasing in demand.

Universities work with third parities to have their paper waste collected on a weekly basis, at which point the documents can be destroyed immediately and the university can be given Certification of Destruction to ensure its disposal. Roll-on roll-off (RORO) containers (large containers for onsite document storage) are also growing in popularity.

At Shredall SDS Group, we’ve recently worked with a university to set up a tag system of preferred confidential sacks to provide a complete audit trail of confidential waste. They greatly appreciated being able to track their information in real-time and know its whereabouts from the minute it left their site to the final invoice, and this is certainly a common trend we expect to see in the future especially with larger High Education institutions.

Current Industry Trends

Students are well aware of climate change and actively look for sustainability as a core value held by their preferred university. Most, if not all universities, are now very good at providing recycling stations on their campuses, whether in lecture rooms, sports facilities or cafes. One of the newest frontiers for recycling among Higher Educations is coffee cup recycling.

Contrary to common belief, the vast majority of coffee cups are non-recyclable, meaning that 2.5 billion coffee cups end up in landfills every year in the UK alone. This is due to the traditional plastic coating being very difficult to separate form the paper cup and therefore making it extremely difficult to recycle in an efficient and financially viable way. Several companies have now developed recyclable paper cups that are being trailed in universities across the UK, with third party waste collectors facilitating their process by transporting the used cups back to paper recycling facilities. Shredall SDS Group are proud to be offering a recycling service for sustainable coffee cups that allows paper cups to be recycled into other paper related products.

Food waste is another trending area for waste collection. Universities are now introducing food composting at their catering outlets and donating near date food to local charities. These food partnerships are becoming more commonplace and waste collectors are working with High Education institutions to create a more circular economy in the process.

Financial Considerations for High Education Institutions

Whilst all High Education institutions would love to be able to do all they can to better manage their waste, it’s clear that financial considerations play a massive part. Universities have to be ran responsibly, and with tuition fees expected to drop in the next few years, it makes sense that senior leadership prioritise certain areas of waste management over others to save money.

Nevertheless, universities can no longer afford to neglect the security of their confidential waste, both from reputational standpoint and a financial one. The introduction of GDPR in 2018 greatly increased the responsibility of institutions working with confidential data via-a-vis their data subjects, meaning that confidentiality is now a much have for waste management solutions.

Finding the balance between responsible waste management and tight budgets is certainly difficult, and universities may choose to prioritise some policies. They may also choose to work with a relatively cheap third-party waste management company with minimal accreditations, but risk mishandling their waste in the process. The best solution for each university will be different and they should therefore work with a third party to find the most optimal strategy for them.

Implications for High Education Institutions

From working with a variety of universities, we have found that space is often an issue. Facilities that were built in the mid-20th century were not necessarily designed to cope with the large quantity of paper and cardboard waste produced on campuses every day, even with the advert of digital alternatives. In fact, hard drives and CDs often add to the list of items that need to be disposed of, and this means that there is often too little storage space to keep everything.

RORO containers are proving to be a popular solution to this problem, as these are secure and can be kept behind the scenes before being collected by a waste collector. These skips also mean that waste collectors can make less trips to the campuses, reducing the environmental impacts of transporting the waste between sites.

Many universities now have multiple campuses within relatively close proximity and organising for the waste to be collected can be complication because of this. Both the university and the contracted waste collector need to communicate clearly at all stages of the collection process to ensure everything is accounted for, which is why we have introduced a tagging process to give both parties more oversight of the entire waste management process.

Documents can be indexed and safely stored off-site to ensure campuses can cope with the large quantity of files and can quickly be retrieved by a scan on demand service. Meaning that documents can be retrieved on a pay as you go basis.

Evolution of waste management for larger institutions

Waste management has become far more regulated in recent decades. As outsourced waste collectors, we are regularly reviewed by external auditors to ensure that our processes meet industry standards and adhere to the most up-to-date data privacy laws, such as GDPR.Every document containing private information, whether it be play slips or medical records, must be accounted for, meaning that universities have had to improve communication across department and with third parties.

Pressure both from the government and students have also encouraged larger institutions to recycle as much as possible, with some institutions now planning to become plastic-free in the coming years. This drive to recycle has meant that waste management is no longer about transporting waste to landfills, but rather about finding ways to avoid doing so. Waste collectors can also now secure a wide array of accreditations to prove their sustainability focus, such as the ISO 14001.