Single Use Plastic

items of plastic

Along with other universities and colleges in Greater Manchester, the University of Salford is working to eradicate avoidable single-use plastics from catering, labs and stationery. The pledge is in support of PlasticFreeGM, the first city-region wide plan to drive down avoidable single-use plastics, established to Greater Manchester.

The plastic issue is a complicated one. The answer is not as simple as plastic = bad. If plastic products are made to last and are reused repeatedly, and then recycled at the end of their usefulness, they can be a sustainable option. Also some single-use “disposable” plastic items are less avoidable – for example single-use plastics used in medical testing and discarded safely to avoid contamination and potentially serious impacts on human health.

The problem is in our now prolific use of avoidable single-use plastic items. This means things like plastic drinking straws, plastic drinks stirrers, and disposable coffee cups and lids. These are all examples of items that (if made of plastic) are used on average for around 20 minutes, but can take over 400 years to degrade. 

Our Single Use Plastic Plan

Our plan is focused on catering, labs and stationery and based on the following principles:

  • Identify - auditing our operational areas to identify where single use plastics are used
  • Avoid - avoiding single use plastics where possible
  • Substitution - identifying more sustainable alternatives to single use plastics where possible
  • Recycling - ensuring we have a sustainable waste management system in place for single use plastics we cannot eliminate and source from recycled content for a closed loop system wherever possible
Plastic Free surfers against sewage logo

To support the University's commitment, in March 2021 we launched the Plastic Free UoS campaign. It follows the plan set out above and at the moment we are in the process of conducting audits to identify single use plastics across departments, and collating the findings to develop an action plan. As part of it we're also working with a marine conservation charity, Surfers Against Sewage, to become a Plastic Free Community. To keep up to date with the progress and opportunities to get involved, you can follow the campaign on Twitter and Instagram.

The campaign is open to all staff and students - get in touch with the Sustainability Team if you'd like to take an active part, or if you have any questions. And if you see any single use plastics on campus which could potentially be avoided or replaced - please let us know. We are a small team so we welcome and encourage all suggestions and ideas.

For more details, you can watch the recording from the Plastic Free UoS relaunch event.

Our progress so far

  • Our Student's Union and Salfood have replaced plastic straws with paper based alternatives.
  • Our Student's Union and Salfood teams offer discounts for using reusable cups for hot drinks.
  • Salfood have replaced all plastic cutlery with wooden alternatives and have committed that all disposable polystyrene takeaway boxes will be replaced with recyclable cardboard versions.
  • Maker Space recycles 3D printing waste, diverting it from landfill.

Be part of the solution

  • We’d like to know if your team or department has taken action on plastic on campus. This could include removing plastic cups from water dispensers or eliminating plastic packaging from your publications. Any action will help us increase our total number of pieces of plastic removed and share best practices across the University. Let us know by emailing the Sustainability Team.
  • Support the Plastic Free UoS campaign on social media.
  • Join the Plastic Free UoS site on Teams.
  • Check out our waste reduction page to find out how else to reduce single use plastic on campus.
  • Reduce the number of single use plastics you purchase - see below for information on Zero Waste shopping in Greater Manchester.

Zero Waste in Greater Manchester

Zero waste is a simple concept that focuses on re-using items as much as possible to reduce the amount of waste that we create. Waste has become a huge problem that has a very damaging impact on the environment. Plastic pollution especially has gained attention as one of worst types of waste we create, due to how it breaks down into microplastics a process that can take centuries it breaks down into. While some plastics can be recycled, a lot of the plastics we use every day cannot. These are single use plastics and are destined to end up in landfills, the ocean or polluting our local environment.

Zero waste stores help combat plastic waste by avoiding using products packaged with single use plastics and instead use refillable containers made from materials such as glass, allowing customers to repeatedly re-use containers for a range of products like dry foods such as cereal, rice and flour as well cleaning products such as detergent and conditioner. Another benefit of zero waste shopping is that you only pay for the amount you need instead of in pre-determined sizes helping reduce other problems such as food waste and saving you money.

Greater Manchester has a range of great stores that have committed to being zero waste fully or to some degree - you can view them on the map below.