Aiming for A Zero Waste NUS

NUS zero waste v6

Our Approach- Creating Zero Waste Precincts

NUS has a vision to achieve an operational Zero Waste campus by 2030, where around 80% to 90% of our waste sent to incineration plants will be diverted for recycling, reusing and most importantly cutting down the waste generated. The Zero Waste NUS Roadmap 2030 was developed in support of Singapore’s Zero Waste Masterplan which aims to reduce waste disposed to Semakau Landfill by 2030 through minimising food waste, packaging waste and e-waste.

As a typical city archetype, the NUS campus is a microcosm of the Singapore city with residential housing, waste management services as well as facilities and amenities such as F&B establishments. Our ingrained habits and social norm of using resources without much thought or consideration result in a wasteful take-make-throw linear economy. In striving towards a Zero Waste campus, a whole-of-university behavioural and cultural change is needed. This means that the campus community must make reusing for takeaways and careful waste sorting for recycling, a person habit and a positive social norm.

We will strive to establish these habits and norms in “Zero Waste precincts” where the NUS community and visitors can practise reusing and recycling at various touchpoints as they go about their activities, starting with the first Zero Waste precinct in University Town. These precincts will be realised using an integrated hardware-software-heartware approach. This approach combines visible infrastructure cues (hardware) to trigger activities that reduce waste, making available data and feedback (software) to students on their daily waste generation and recycling patterns to foster mindful waste sorting, and providing opportunities for students to testbed their ideas on campus to deepen their sense of involvement and ownership (heartware).

Steady Climb in Recycling Rate since 2012

NUS started our Zero Waste journey over a decade ago with a single-digit recycling rate of 9% in 2012. By 2021, we achieved a modest recycling rate of 27%– exceeding the 25% target set in the 2017-2020 Sustainability Plan, with the increase attributed to the introduction of campus-wide clothing drives in 2013, food waste in 2015 and e-waste in 2018.

In August 2020, the Towards a Zero Waste NUS Action Plan 2030 was launched by Senior Minister of State for Sustainability and the Environment, Dr Amy Khor. To empower NUS students and recent alumni to co-create and testbed their waste reduction project ideas on the campus grounds, the Zero Waste Testbed Initiative was launched in January 2021 by Minister for Sustainability and the Environment, Ms Grace Fu, in collaboration with the National Environment Agency (NEA) and South West Community Development Council (SW CDC).

In March 2021, this culminated in NUS being awarded the International Sustainable Campus Excellence Award 2021 (Cultural Change for Sustainability category) for its long-term plan in promoting behavioural change for a Zero Waste campus.