The University is committed to implementing and promoting waste minimisation practices and behaviour among staff, students and the wider community.

Our waste minimisation and management planprovides a basis for good practice and environmental responsibility, and aims to better manage waste being produced on campus and to significantly reduce the proportion of waste sent to landfill.

For all recycling questions please see Recycling FAQ

Landfills have the potential for a broad range of environmental effects.  Bacteria in landfills decompose organic matter and produce greenhouse gases: methane and carbon dioxide. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, approximately 21-25 times stronger than carbon dioxide.A liquid cocktail of chemicals called leachate is produced as the landfill contents breakdown and rain water enters the site.

Toxic leachate contains heavy metals, volatile fatty acids, ammoniacal nitrogen, aldehydes and alcohols. Leachate has the potential to leak from landfills into ground water, soils and waterways. Although modern landfills are lined with plastic and clay, it is possible that they will fail after a period of a few decades. Landfill sites continue to produce greenhouse gases and leachate 30 years after closure.

  • The World Bank lists New Zealand as the tenth most wasteful country in the world.
  • New Zealander's produce around 900kg of waste a year.
  • Total combined waste to landfill is in excess of 15 million tonnes a year.
  • We manage to divert approximately 64% of waste from landfills in Waikato.
  • University of Waikato pays in excess of $100,000 annually to dispose of waste.
  • Approximately 25% of what the University puts in landfill is recyclable paper.
  • Waste Audits have shown that almost 70% of waste to landfill from the University could be diverted or recycled.

Our waste minimisation initiatives


In 2018 we purchased an industrial composter, which processes organic waste into usable compost within 2 months – the first unit of its kind in New Zealand.

The OSCA Bite Size 200 can process up to 100kg of mixed organic waste per day, reducing the University’s waste to landfill, as well as decreasing greenhouse gases. OSCA currently takes over 50% of the food waste from the College Hall, and also coffee grounds, used paper towels and dried leaves from the grounds.

Engineering students

In-vessel organic diversion system

Two Waikato engineering students developed a prototype for an in-vessel organic diversion system.

Their work was supported by funding from Waikato Regional Council and Hamilton City Council, and the prototype is now being used for research.

Faculty of Worms

We have a commercial-sized worm farm, colloquially known as the 'Faculty of Worms'. This system can contend with 3 tonnes of paper and food waste per annum. After 6 months, the decomposed matter is put on the University gardens as fertiliser.

Other initiatives to reduce organic waste include the placement of smaller worm farms and compost bins around campus.

Getting creative with our recycling bins

As part of their coursework, graphic design students created the funky art on our 32 indoor recycling stations.

Waste audits

Waste audits (weighing and categorising of waste) occur annually on campus in our efforts to reduce the waste we send to landfill. Recent audits have shown that just 5 indoor recycling stations diverted 12 bags of recyclables in a week.

In 2019, we recycled 42 tonnes of glass, 66 tonnes of paper and cardboard, 32 tonnes of metal and steel, and 330 kilograms of lights and fluorescent tubes.

Our recent Village Green waste audit illustrated that 62kg's of waste was produced in just one day. 22% of the rubbish was cans, glass and plastics which should have been placed in the recycling stations nearby.

This work aligns with the following United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

12 Responsible consumption and production 13 Climate action 14 Life below water 15 Life on land