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Loughborough Sustainability go plastic free

5 September 2018

3 mins

The Loughborough University Sustainability Team ditched the disposables, cut the cartons and shunned the straw as they took on the Marine Conservation Society’s #GoPlasticFree challenge.

From making oat milk to leaving a shop hungry, the team faced highs, lows and a lot of challenges. Here’s what they had to say of the experience…

Ever since David Attenborough highlighted the issue of plastic waste during Blue Planet II, it seems you can’t escape the issue in the news.

We use single-use plastics for just about everything, from cleaning our teeth and showering, to buying and storing our food and other products.

It is durable and lightweight, but it’s these properties that allow it to persist in the environment for hundreds of years. So, it’s no surprise we see our beaches littered with plastic.

At the start of July, we, the Sustainability Team, embarked on a journey to try and reduce our plastic consumption for a month.

We hit the ground running with plenty of excitement and ideas for the challenge ahead.

In the first week we had signed up to milk deliveries, found local butchers who would put the meat directly in a container, shopped at a local market and made our own bread and oat milk. Not a bad first week!

It wasn’t all smiles though; Jo (Shields, Sustainability Manager) was left hungry when she couldn’t find any plastic free food from M & S on the way back from a course!

Tesco refused to put meat into a container, and your choices dramatically dropped when shopping for a plastic-free meal.

Yes, supermarkets do sell loose vegetables and yoghurts in glass jars, but it’s at a premium and when shopping on a budget for a family this isn’t always viable.

As the month developed and our drive to succeed waned, we found ourselves asking several questions:

  • Is it better to buy something in plastic if it extends the shelf life i.e. prevents food waste and is then recycled properly? (Although a third of plastic packaging in supermarkets is non-recyclable)
  • If I have driven further or to several shops rather than just one to reduce my plastic, is that any better? Transport accounts for around 20% of all global emissions

Supermarkets currently produce an estimated 800,000 tonnes of plastic waste every year, enough to cover Greater London to a depth of 2.5cm…. even Towers would disappear if it was all dumped-on campus!

Until the shops and manufacturers start to offer more products that are a) not packaged in plastic b) similar price c) convenient, it isn’t realistic to expect consumers to go plastic free.

But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try!

Here are some of the simplest ways of reducing plastic:

  • Reusable water bottle
  • Shop at local markets
  • Refuse the straw
  • Get a bag for life

While we didn’t achieve a plastic-free month, it was certainly an eye opener for us and helped us to better understand the problem!

Loughborough University Sustainability Team


Has this inspired you to think about reducing your plastic use? Download a Marine Conservation Society plastic free-living booklet here:

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