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UCT recycles in colours

2 Aug 2017 - 17:30

UCT residences use a unique colour coded system for routing waste to special recycling plants off campus.  Manager: Student Housing Glenn von Zeil explained the system to us.

Developed 10 years ago

Dealing with waste in residences is a daily challenge and part of providing an efficient, sustainable and clean accommodation service to students and visitors. The colour-coded bin system was developed some 10 years ago and has been running smoothly despite limited budget for promoting and signposting it. UCT’s Properties and Services department contracts with a waste control company to transport the colour coded waste to landfill or recycling plants.

The colour system

 White bins are for paper and can be found in residence foyers. Paper is collected and stored during
term time and sent for recycling in batches. End of term sees bins filling fast when students empty
their desks before the holidays.


Green bins found in self-catering residence kitchens are for all recyclables and these are the categories most of us know about. They include glass, paper and cardboard, plastic and metals. Note that all waste from catering residences is considered as recyclable as the catering kitchens are responsible for sorting at source. The Green waste is sorted at a special off-campus sorting area called ‘Murf’ where the different materials are sent to separate plants for processing.


Yellow bins found in self-catering residence kitchens are for all not-yet recyclable materials such as food waste, wax paper products, used paper, sanitary items, condoms and garden waste. This goes to the municipal dump or landfill.


Red bins are for E-waste like computers, appliances and anything mechanical or electronic. A large proportion of this E-waste is lightbulbs.


Blue bins, which are found in the large residence catering kitchens, are for left-over food waste and this goes to fly farms, one of the most innovative and pioneering industries in the Western Cape. Fly larvae (maggots) are bred on an industrial scale to be used as a rich protein source for fish and chicken feed. To read more about this industry, visit the AgriProtein website.


UCT Residence staff demonstrate colour-coded bins in catering res kitchens and self-catering flats.
Photos: Glenn von Zeil

 Particular challenges

As residence students are a constantly changing community, new arrivals must be educated about UCT’s recycling routes. A particular challenge is the self-catering residences where recycling cannot be closely monitored and depends on the efforts of individuals.

‘Sustainability and waste disposal requires consciousness and teamwork,’ says Manager: Student Housing, Glenn von Zeil. ‘Unfortunately there is no national colour coded standard with each school and community having their own colour coded system.  This impacts on active participation and compliance,’ he says. Glenn wonders whether active participation and compliance would increase if the UCT colour-coded waste recycling system were to be accepted nationally.

Working together

Each year, Green Campus Initiative and Student Housing & Residence Life teams aim to increase awareness about recycling on campus and utilise Green Week as a focal point.

If you’d like to discuss any aspect of recycling in residences, please contact Manager: Student Housing Glenn von Zeil on 021 650 1039 or glenn.vonzeill@uct.ac.za.

Illustrations: Studio Woo