The restrictions associated with the spread of the coronavirus have resulted in the decrease of the volume of recyclable material collection at St Petersburg University. However, even during the lockdown, University students and staff continue separate waste collection, participate in eco-webinars, and share best practices with other activists.

During the pandemic, 4 of the 14 stationary eco-points at the University continue to be fully functional: recyclable materials can still be taken to the containers located in halls of residence. However, according to Natalia Popova, Head of the Environmental Department at St Petersburg University, the situation on the market for separate waste collection remains the same. Despite the challenging situation, the counterparties have not changed the list of processed raw materials and are ready to accept all waste fractions in the same volume.

How to start waste sorting - read in an interview with Ekaterina Nadtochii, an ecologist and an activist of the ‘EcoSPbU’ community.

Although the results of the separate collection during the pandemic have been much less than expected, the total volume of waste that the University sends to the landfill, rather than recycling, continues to decrease. During the first half of the year, 7,725 m3 of waste was removed – almost 25% less than in the first half of 2019, and 37% less than the average for the last five years. The statistics are only partly due to the imposed lockdown when University students and staff studied and worked from home for several months. The main reason is that the amount of waste that the University takes out to the landfill has been steadily decreasing over the past five years.

Even during the lockdown, University students and staff continue to have an eco-friendly lifestyle. Since the beginning of the year, students and employees of the University have handed over about 140,000 roubles worth of recyclable materials. Due to the fact that they have been collecting this waste in containers for subsequent processing, there is no need to take such waste to the landfill. This, in turn, has saved the University about 290,000 roubles.

Compared to 2019, the collection of waste paper has significantly increased: in the first half of the year, more than 22 tons of paper were collected. Also, the students handed over more than two tons of glass, 1.39 tons of type 1 plastic, and about 40 kg of aluminium. The main contribution to the collection of recyclable materials was made by the students living in the halls of residence of the Peterhof campus.

During the pandemic, I have been collecting my waste in only one place – in my room in the hall of residence. Now it has become noticeable how much garbage accumulates in just one day. I have been practicing separate collection since my first year at the University, so now, I cannot give it up at all.

Aleksandr Danilevskii, a master's student in the academic programme ‘Software and Administration of Information Systems’

To make it easier for University students and staff to be involved in the collection of useful resources, the University regularly purchases containers. So, at the beginning of 2020, bins for separate waste collection appeared in two halls of residence on Vasilyevsky Island: 25 Shevchenko Street, and 20, building 1 Korablestroitelei Street.

Throughout the academic year, the University engages students and staff in a separate waste collection programme. It holds usually a variety of green workshops, film screenings, contests and community cleanup days. Due to the pandemic, the plans of University students and staff have altered, but the environmental events at the University have not been stopped. Despite the fact that the main events have been rescheduled for the autumn, students have held webinars, where they discussed films and books on responsible consumption. Also, the University students have taken part in the All-Russian video forum dedicated to the trends of sustainable development in university education. To see the announcements of new online meetings and detailed information on eco-projects at St Petersburg University, visit the student group ‘EcoSPbU’ on the VKontakte website.