Single Use Plastic

items of plastic

Along with other universities and colleges in Greater Manchester, The University of Salford will work to eradicate avoidable single-use plastics from catering, labs and stationery by 2022. 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 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. 

The 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.

Our Single Use Plastic Plan

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

  • Identify - we will audit our operational areas to identify where single use plastics are used

  • Avoid- we will avoid the use of single use plastics where possible

  • Substitution - we will identify more sustainable alternatives to single use plastics where possible

  • Recycling - we will ensure 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

To support the University's commitment, in March 2021 we launched the Plastic Free UoS campaign. Here you can watch a recording from the launch event. 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. We are in the early stages of the campaign so it will continue to evolve in the coming months. 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.

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

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
  • Join or support the Plastic Free UoS campaign
  • Check out our waste reduction page to find out how else to reduce single use plastic on campus
  • Join PlasticFreeGM with your own pledge
  • For inspiration how you can reduce your personal use of plastic check out Plastic Free July, a global movement that helps millions of people be part of the solution to plastic pollution.