UEL game wins big at the 2022 Green Apple Awards
22 November 2022
The old adage one person's rubbish is another person's gold has struck true with the University of East London (UEL) scooping a top prize in the prestigious Green Apple Awards for a 'rubbish' game designed to raise awareness of sustainability and recycling.
At a glitzy ceremony held at the Houses of Parliament, UEL was awarded a bronze level Green Apple Environment Award in the category of Education and Training: Waste Management for engaging students and the local community in waste disposal and recycling using the fun and engaging Rubbish Game.
A large percentage of UEL recycling waste, as much as 45 per cent each month, regularly becomes contaminated due to incorrect disposal of items. The Rubbish Game tackles this issue and the phenomenon known as 'wishcycling', which sees people put things in the recycling bin, trusting they will get recycled, without any scientific evidence to confirm their assumptions.
Mimi Cedrone, sustainability manager at UEL, said: "We wanted to give people the knowledge to make correct choices about waste and recycling, empower them to pass that knowledge on to friends and family.
"To achieve this, we needed a more hands-on way to engage with the UEL community on correct waste disposal as a supplement to existing measures like signage, to contribute towards a larger goal of increasing recycling and reducing the total amount of waste sent to landfill.
"The Rubbish Game was a no-cost, high-impact activity that could be tailored to UEL's needs and later the needs of our local community."
Creating the game
The Rubbish Game is a collaboration between the UEL sustainability, facilities and communication teams. Designed as a fun, interactive and innovative method of educating university students about proper waste disposal on campus, the Rubbish Game sees players place everyday waste items into general waste, recycling or food waste bins, scoring points for correct waste disposal and losing points for placing items in the wrong bin.
Facilities staff provided data on items frequently disposed of incorrectly, including coffee cups, plates and containers soiled by food, chocolate wrappers, and paper items covered in glitter, all of which frequently get put in the recycling bin when they should go in the general waste bin.
Physical items are used to make the game as interactive as possible, and UEL's facilities team provided recycling and general waste bins of the same type used all around campus so that people would connect the game to their regular waste disposal.
In the true spirit of the game, it costs nothing as the game board and labels are all made with materials re-purposed from other projects. Rubbish items were saved from actual household waste by UEL staff and cleaned appropriately, and cardboard cut-outs represented food waste.
Communications staff developed the logistics of the game, assigning points to each item based on how often it gets incorrectly disposed of by students. Five points get awarded for items that are easy to determine if they should go into recycling versus general waste or food waste bins, 10 points for a moderately tricky item and 15 points for the things that many people often get wrong.
Players physically take items and put them in the bins they think they should go in. Players pick five items and put them in the bins, then one-by-one, go through and see if they got it correct by lifting the corresponding flap on the game board to reveal the answer and points.
A scoring element and leaderboard makes the game competitive, encouraging people to play the game multiple times to beat their friends, reinforcing the learning.
Pictured : UEL Senior Communications Officer Matt Rogers, with Sustainability Officer Jade Carney at the Green Apple Awards
Rubbish Game leads to excellent results
Since running the game at big UEL events such as Welcome Week and the Winter Fayre, UEL has achieved its two highest-ever levels of uncontaminated recycling relative to total monthly waste disposal of 52 per cent in February 2022 and 55 per cent in April 2022.
After engaging more than 500 UEL students and staff on campus, the University contacted Newham Council to collaborate on rolling the game out across the borough. Eight libraries in the London Borough of Newham were selected to host the game during the February 2022 half-term, where UEL and Newham Council engaged over 150 children and parents.
Collaborations with local partners, organisations and residents support the University's broader sustainability and net zero 2030 strategy. The strategy takes a holistic approach to climate action, recognising that sustainability is essential for our environment and the local community's well-being, health and career prospects. The Rubbish Game is an excellent example of these ideas in action as students and people across Newham can gain vital knowledge that helps make positive changes in their everyday lives.
The Green Apple Environment Awards were established in 1994 as an annual campaign to recognise, reward and promote environmental best practice around the world.
The Green Apple Awards scheme was the first to be accredited as an official feeder scheme into the European Business Awards for the Environment and it is now the only official feeder scheme into the Green World Awards, which are held in a different country every year.
Previous Green Apple Award winners have gone on to win European and World Awards, and many have taken on the status of International Green World Ambassadors by helping others around the world to help the environment.