News on EMU waste management and recycling

Changes occurring in waste management procedures of Estonian University of Life Sciences are aimed at coordinating waste collection, making the process more organised, convenient and understandable.

The information on waste management found on Green University Initiative webpage at includes:

  • Waste sorting guides;
  • Map of EMU campus with the marked locations of various types of containers;
  • FAQ section with the answers to questions on waste management issues (including the results of the web-survey conducted in spring 2020 among EMU staff members and students);
  • Links to videos on recycling and waste management;
  • Other interesting facts and necessary information.

The most evident change are new labels on waste containers. Label colours and icons suggested by Estonian Ministry of Environment have been adapted to specific EMU needs.  First, all outdoor containers of EMU campus, as well as indoor containers located in the corridors, resting areas, and kitchenettes will be marked with labels and waste sorting guides. Thereafter, containers located in other indoor public areas will be labelled.

Furthermore, sustainable waste management opportunities will be expanded enabling waste sorting in laboratories and dormitories. Waste management at work place has to be organised by the corresponding structural unit. Therefore, in order to label the containers, we recommend downloading and printing sorting guides and labels of necessary waste types from the webpage or directly contacting Green University.

Sharing information

All materials related to waste management and recycling are marked with QR code linked to Green University webpage. Scanning a QR code with your smart device will provide access to all the necessary information. The idea to use QR codes belongs to Siret Kapak and is part of her PhD thesis. One of the aims of the research is to apply IT solutions to enhance waste management and recycling in Estonia by raising consumer’s awareness.

What is done with the sorted waste afterwards?

At the moment, staff members have to collect and sort themselves the waste produced in the office, resting area, or kitchenette (e.g.  paper and mixed waste), take it to the suitable container of the waste station located in the corridors of all EMU buildings (see EMU campus map), where the cleaner and/ or property manager collects and further transports it to outdoor containers.

Next year, we are planning to organise cleaning service procurement tender, as a result of which the cleaners shall take the correctly sorted waste from the offices, resting areas, and kitchenettes to the suitable outdoor container (provided this type of the container is available) or pass to the property manager, who shall further forward it to the corresponding waste management company.  

Moreover, we are planning to make public the further route of the sorted waste to the final disposal site, be it paper or glass factory. However, recent emergency situation in the country has imposed certain unexpected delays on the process of making the videos.

Why are we going to use QR codes?

We are used to acquiring necessary information on waste management from brochures or internet. Unfortunately, we may forget the information and be unable to find it again. Additionally, information changes fast in the contemporary world, and thus, new brochures may have to be printed. This is not sustainable behaviour. In this case, QR code is very helpful.

  • QR code can be linked to versatile information in several languages. Information on the webpage can be easily and quickly adjusted and changed. Thus, the necessity to repeatedly print new materials disappears.
  • QR code saves time. All the information on waste management including questions and answers, videos, links, guides, and labels is merely one click away.
  • The QR code is surrounded by an already familiar recycling symbol of the three ‘chasing arrows’. We would like to offer you the joy of recognition – this is our university QR code for recycling and waste management.
  • We can label every waste bin with this QR code. It is small enough and does not bother anyone.  

Is your smart device able to recognise QR codes?

The ability to recognise QR codes is a default setting of many smart devices. If your device is not able to do it by default, it is possible to download QR code recognition software. As a rule, this type of applications can be downloaded free of charge.

Background information about waste sorting

Packaging is a major part of reusable materials and its sorting has to be enhanced.  By 2025, every EU member state shall recycle at least 55% of mixed waste and reuse at least 65% of packaging waste.

According to the research conducted by Stockholm Estonian Institute for Sustainable Development in 2019–2020, waste sorting in our country is at a low level. Mixed waste content has not significantly changed for the last ten years. That means no noteworthy changes or development occurred in our mixed waste collection and management system.  The share of packaging and biowaste is on average 32% of mixed waste content, although both have to be sorted and collected separately. The quality of sorted mixed packaging waste is low, and the proportion of unsuitable waste reaches 28%. These numbers reveal that we have to pay more attention to information sharing and activities raising awareness. It means, we have to develop environmentally friendly and sustainable behaviour patterns! If target numbers remain unchanged, Estonia may be punished with considerable fines. However, this scenario can be avoided and our university can set a positive example to others.