UNHQ waste management - be the change!

Tue, 15/08/17

“Be the Change Week”, an initiative by the Department of Public Information to invite all staff to take the Sustainability Challenge, may have ended but the challenge continues! 

The Department of Management and all of its Offices are committed to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals and actively participated in the “Be the Change Week”, particularly on No-Trash Day. In line with SDG Goal 12, Responsible Consumption and Production, and SDG Goal 13, Climate Action, No-Trash Day aimed at reducing waste and encouraging use of reusable items instead of single-use products.

With the support of CulinArt, volunteers from the Department of Management, Office of Central Support Services (OCSS) and United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) set up activities and demonstrations in the 4th Floor Cafeteria during lunch hours to raise awareness about the new waste separation system. These activities were also used to engage with staff on the impacts of generating excessive waste. Trivia questions and useful giveaways were entertaining and highlight the importance of each and every one of us doing our part in reducing and managing waste responsibly. For example, did you know that the United States represents less than 5% of the World’s population, yet contributes 1/3 of global solid waste? Or that polystyrene never decomposes and cannot be recycled?

When it comes to managing waste, it’s important to understand that reducing and reusing are the priority. That said, correct separation of the remaining waste also has a huge positive impact on the environment. It increases the percentage of valuable items that can be recycled, which reduces the amount of waste that ends up in a landfill and the need for raw materials for the production of new products. Some materials, such as aluminum, are 100% recyclable – meaning the metal can be melted down and reformed without losing any quality. This means that about 90% LESS energy is needed to recycle aluminum as opposed to making new aluminum.

In an attempt to simplify waste separation, a new system was tested on “No-Trash Day”. Instead of separating trash by material, there are now “Dry Waste” and “Food & Wet Waste” bins at the Cafeteria. The “Dry waste” is then further sorted at a local facility for maximum recovery of its recyclable content.


UNHQ is currently recycling 40% of its waste and the remaining waste is converted into energy at a facility that exceeds environmental regulations. Despite this honourable achievement, they strive to do more and are encouraging staff to:

  • Consider less packaging
  • Use paper containers, which are more sustainable, when possible
  • Wipe plastic or aluminum containers clean before placing them in the dry waste bin. Unfortunately, food soiled items are difficult to recover and may end up as garbage.

To learn more about UNHQ waste management, visit the UNHQ page on Greening the Blue. If you’re based at UNHQ and would like to coordinate a similar waste awareness activity on your floor, contact OCSS at [email protected] and keep an eye out for changes from the feedback received during the “Be the Change” Week activities. 

Categories: Staff Engagement, Waste