Stemming the plastic tide #HotTopic

Anyone who has seen Sir David Attenborough’s ‘The Blue Planet’ will know the devastation plastic pollution wreaks on marine animals, and yet change is slow coming, and single-use plastics are still a norm. 

While it will take considerable change from packaging manufacturers to really have an impact, as an individual consumer and part of the University, you can make a big difference too. 

We are all responsible for our choices. On this page we will outline what single-use plastics are, what the University is doing to reduce usage and what you can do to make a positive change. 

What is ‘single-use?’

Single-use plastics are exactly what the name suggests: plastic items that we use once and then throw way. Common offenders are plastic bags, straws, and water bottles. 
The University uses many kinds of single-use plastics in its offices and catering, as well as in labs and research facilities. 

Single-use plastics will not simply disappear overnight, but the everyday choices we make can help to bring about change. On their own these choices may seem trivial, but with many people making an effort they can make a huge difference.

plastic cup on beach

Let’s stem the plastic tide 

There has already been a lot of activity across the University in the drive against plastic pollution: 

  • We continue to work with Compass, the University’s catering supplier, to use fewer single-use items.
  • Customers who bring their own reusable cups can get a discount.

And watch this space – we are currently working on: 

  • A single-use plastics charter.
  • Case studies from across the collegiate University to inspire, inform and get you all involved.

Several student common rooms and colleges are also taking their own steps to address single-use. Societies are looking at their events and the impact they have on the environment.

It starts with you… 

Many decisions around single-use plastics are made at a local level. So we are asking each department, member of staff and student to sit up, take notice and see how each of you can contribute to the University's work in this area.

What YOU can do to prevent the use of single-use plastics:

  • Work with colleagues and peers to remove unnecessary single-use plastics like tea stirrers and plastic straws.
  • Avoid ordering items packaged in plastics and work with users and suppliers to move towards reusable packaging or alternative packaging.
  • Take your own reusable cup to catering points and get a discount.
  • Return reusable cutlery, plates, glasses and cups to catering facilities.
  • Share resources such as reusable bags to avoid plastic disposable bags.

Be careful only to buy items that can be recycled – not all plastic can. Avoid items made from mixed materials, for instance crisp tubes. These are often made of things that could be recycled on their own but cannot be when mixed together. 

As well as recycling what we can, it is really important to make sure waste is safe and secure to stop it escaping into the environment. Recycling is great but prevention is the best option!



  • Reuse materials where you can including through WARPit.
  • Think about designing your experiment or art project to avoid or reduce single-use plastic.

What can you do at home? 

We know you want to be the change our ocean needs. To get a free action plan and lots of useful hints and tips, visit the Surfers Against Sewage plastic-free campaign.