Students for sustainability

It makes me incredibly happy that my first post since I started this blog is one of very good news. Today I presented two ideas at Leeds University Union’s ‘Better Union’ forum alongside Plastic-Free Me’s Suzie Hall. I’m pleased to say both of the ideas were accepted!

Our first idea was for the Union to make the change from disposable plastics to biodegradable materials. Most of their disposable goods such as coffee cups and salad containers are already made from biodegradable material, however there are still a few items they haven’t made the switch with yet. Part of this idea was also that non-essential items such as straws and cocktail stirrers would not be given out unless asked for.

Photo from Sian Steel

Take that straws!

The second idea was to have a package-free food aisle in our Union supermarket. This would help to reduce the amount of waste produced both as individuals and as a Union. It would work by having weigh stations at which you can bring your own containers to – or you can buy one if you forget! Therefore you can just buy the amount of a product that you need so that less is wasted. I know I’m guilty of buying the larger boxes of things like mushrooms because they’re cheaper. However I never end up getting through them in time and have to compost those last three mouldy ones that I forgot about.

Disposable plastic and excessive waste production are monstrous environmental issues. They are things we often don’t think about as they don’t immediately affect us. And unless you live near the sea or a landfill site, it’s something we don’t see the physical effects of. Here are some quick facts for you

  • Over 50% of the plastic we use is single use, but can take up to 1000 years to break down1
  • Plastic can break down into toxic chemicals such as PCB’s and micro-particles which can accumulate in the bodies of animals. And us2
  • A recent study found that seafood eaters consume up to 11,000 pieces of micro-plastic per year3
  • By 2050 the amount of plastic in the ocean will outweigh the amount of fish4
  • UK households throw away around 30 million tonnes of waste each year5
  • Around 16% of the money you spend on a product is for the packaging6

These two ideas aren’t rocket science, and they are policies that are being implemented more and more around the globe. Biodegradable cups are becoming more common and we’ve had our first waste-free supermarket open in the UK this year. Our Union is already taking those important steps toward being more sustainable, and some of the ideas discussed were already being considered. It feels good to walk away from a forum where so many of the ideas were environmentally focused, and everyone had constructive, positive ideas for how we can work together to make sure these ideas are a success.