A Greener Community

Five ways NYU Abu Dhabi is creating a more sustainable future

We know sustainability is not just an individual’s effort. As a community, NYU Abu Dhabi is committed to continuously improving our ecological footprint.

To commemorate the global movement of Earth Day, here are five actions NYUAD has taken toward a more sustainable future.

1. Atmospheric Water Generator

The campus has 40 atmospheric water generators to help reduce consumption of  plastic water bottles. This technology takes in moisture from the air, and condenses and sterilizes the liquid into odorless and safe drinking water.

By using atmospheric moisture, we are reducing the carbon footprint of consuming desalinated sea water. Because these generators do not require plastic bottles, we eventually reduce the usage and cost of buying the gallon-sized plastic bottles too.

Did You Know?

More water dispensers are available around campus and we distribute reusable water bottles to all first year students. The campus has also stopped the sales of 500ml plastic bottles in our dining halls.

An atmospheric water dispenser found in NYU Abu Dhabi's campus.

2. Food Digester


Despite being biodegradable, a lot of food waste still ends up in overflowing landfills. The campus food digester turns food into usable compost, which is then used on campus plants.

Did You Know?

Food compost on its own is too rich to be used directly on campus flora and fauna. To address this issue, our landscape team mixes it with soil, making it a nutritious and safe treat for our trees and plants. Food portion control was implemented to serve smaller food portions in dining halls to help further reduce food wastage on campus — but don’t worry, nobody goes hungry. Diners can request for a bigger portion if they want.

3. Bulb Crusher

Mercury from light bulbs is considered hazardous waste. If not disposed of properly, mercury builds up in the atmosphere, and returns to land as rain or snow, polluting our water sources and poisoning marine life — making it dangerous for human consumption.

Disposal of hazardous mercury waste is a costly endeavor due to the bulk weight of bulbs, and having to ship them to a German processing plant.

Did You Know?

The use of the bulb crusher on campus means all parts of light bulbs can be properly separated here, sending just a small package of hazardous waste for processing — reducing freight cost and fuel consumption.

4. Compostable Food Takeout Boxes


Some common materials used for takeout containers are plastic and Styrofoam. While durable, these one-use containers take over 1,000 years to disintegrate. To address this, the campus got our supplier to source compostable takeout boxes that disintegrate in about 180 days.

Did You Know?

Reusable food containers are available for a small fee. Each time you are done using the reusable container, simply wash it and return it back to the dining hall to receive a coin-sized token. The next time you need food to go, simply hand in your token to get your food packed in a clean, reusable container.

5. Giving Plastic a Second Life, Through Research

The Plastic Recycling Research Lab was created by Professor Felix Hardmood Beck with the goal of researching long-term solutions to recycling plastic.

It started from a conversation with the facilities team, seeking opportunity into the campus’s recycling waste management process.

The current space of the plastic recycling research lab is located right next to the recycling and sorting center — an ideal location to gain access to plastic waste easily.

With the support from the facilities team on campus, the research lab is currently collecting plastic cap bottles, and processing them into plastic shreds.

Colorful plastic bottle caps being recycled on NYU Abu Dhabi campus.

The next step is turning plastic shreds into plastic granules, a primary material for making plastic products.

With the plastic shreds, the team is making prototypes such as plastic coasters. However, Professor Beck is quick to note that while making such recycled products is a good start, they eventually end up in the trash again.

“We should think about long-term solutions… I’ll like to develop solutions that binds plastic in architectural components like building bricks, roads, and other elements that don’t emit microplastic. This way, we bind the plastic for the next 100 years, until we find better solutions on addressing our plastic waste.”

Professor Beck hopes to collaborate with other colleagues on campus to research more sustainable ways to recycle plastics.

Did You Know?

Just like our faculty, students are also looking at sustainable solutions.

Lubnah Ansari, Class of 2021 is a recipient of the NYU Office of Sustainability Green Grant for her sustainable menstruation initiative. As menstruation remains a taboo subject in many cultures, Ansari's goal is to start a dialogue through gender inclusive workshops, and spread awareness on the physical health and environmental impacts of disposable menstrual hygiene products, such as menstrual cups and reusable pads.