Targeting single-use plastic waste at University of Nottingham

Blue Planet II threw the issue of disposable plastics into sharp relief when it aired last year. The University’s Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Shearer West, set out a commitment to reducing the amount of single-use plastic the University of Nottingham consumes in her blog, and we are rising to the challenge.

Plastic represents a collective problem: it is integral to the packaging industry, and can help ensure the longevity of products. Nevertheless, we do need to consider the use of plastic as the default where other materials can serve the same purpose, or ask if that purpose is needed at all. Our focus is to identify the scale of the challenge, tackle unnecessary single-use plastic waste, and consider how we can reduce our overall use.

Some of the first steps we are taking toward reducing our plastic use include:

New reusable coffee cup at Portland Coffee Co.
    • Founding new working group with key stakeholders to identify and reduce plastics use across the University. This group will meet monthly to discuss where plastics use can be reduced across our campuses and update on progress. The initial focus to be on plastic catering consumables, water bottles, and hot drinks cups with further work to be done to identify single-use plastics from across University and Students’ Union operations.
    • Ditching plastic straws. As existing stocks of plastic straws are used up, they will be replaced by paper as standard. This will include University-managed catering outlets on University Park and Jubilee. The Student’s Union managed Portland Coffee Co. has used paper straws since its opening in September 2017, and Mooch Bar is switching to paper straws once stocks are depleted. The bar at Sutton Bonington will also be moving to paper straws.
    • Introducing branded KeepCups for sale. A University of Nottingham branded cup will be available soon from campus outlets, and the Students’ Union have launched a cup available at Portland Coffee Co. offering a 25p discount on drinks at the SU run cafe when used. Sodexo at Sutton Bonington are selling a reusable cup for £4, with a 10p discount when presented.
    • Reviewing idea pitches from students, staff and alumni through Ingenuity18. Our blog post details our presentation to 300 innovators on plastics use across the University. Projects put forward by teams will be reviewed for originality and feasibility.
    • Identifying best locations for water fountains. Improving the provision of water for students and staff will encourage reuse of bottles and help to decrease plastics use.
The University of Nottingham has built and maintained a reputation for its commitment to sustainability. It has developed and put in place comprehensive facilities to enable staff, students and visitors to recycle their waste wherever possible. Whilst we endeavour to ensure that we don’t contribute directly to the issue of marine plastic waste, with 99.75% of all waste being recycled or recovered for waste-to-energy last year, use of plastic as the default is part of a wider problem.

Our initial findings of single-use plastic consumption show that the University’s students, staff and visitors use:

  • More than 800,000 plastic bottles a year, with around 25% of this being bottled water. If all the plastic drinks bottles we used as a University were lined up end-to-end, they would stretch across University Park campus almost 100 times.
  • Over one million disposable hot drinks cups. The plastic lining on these cups means they cannot be conventionally recycled. Coffee cups currently disposed of in our waste streams will be used for energy recovery rather than being recycled into other materials.
  • Almost half a million drinks straws and items of plastic cutlery. The majority of straws are used in campus hall bars. 

You can sign up to our newsletter to keep up to date, and find out about ways to get involved as the project evolves.

Posted on Wednesday 4th April 2018

Sustainability Team

Estate Office, University Park, Nottingham, NG7 2RD