February 16, 2018, by sustainablenottingham

Ingenuity18: solutions to reduce plastic use

Every year, around 8 million metric tonnes of plastic waste enters the ocean, where it can prove fatal to marine life. For scale, that’s the equivalent of a full rubbish truck of plastic being dumped in the ocean every minute. Ocean plastics was the focus of the final episode of the popular Blue Planet II BBC series which aired in late 2017.

Plastics represent a collective problem: the University alone uses over 800,000 plastic bottles a year. If all the plastic drinks bottles we used as a University were lined up end-to-end, they would stretch across University Park campus almost 100 times. Whilst we endeavour to ensure that we don’t contribute directly to the issue of marine plastic waste, profligate use of plastic as the default is part of a wider problem.

One of the ways we’re addressing this is by challenging 300 students, staff and alumni to come up with solutions to help drive down our use of single-use plastics as an institution through Ingenuity18.

Through Blue Planet II David Attenborough spoke of the impact our modern lives are having on marine life. The series has shone a light on how our individual choices and impacts as humans go on to have an impact on the natural environment. BBC Earth has produced a number of handy resources on positive impacts you can make, and things you can do to help the oceans, including a #2MinuteBeachClean, refusing plastic straws, and avoiding microplastics.

Plastics are not going to disappear, but the way we think about, treat and use plastics needs to change throughout the entire lifecycle. Plastics have provided huge advances in human development in medicine, electronics, construction and many more. Plastics also provide many sustainability benefits such as preserving food helping us to avoid food waste: a shrink-wrapped cucumber will last more than three times as long as an unwrapped one, important when you consider the embedded energy in growing, transporting and storing that cucumber as much greater than the packaging it comes it.

Our Vice-Chancellor, Professor Shearer West, has asked the University’s Sustainability team to produce a plan for how we can reduce our plastic use over the coming years. As part of Ingenuity18, we will pitch the issue of plastics reduction at the University to student, staff, and alumni teams. The best ideas will progress to the Ingenuity18 competition, which awards over £100,000 to support proposals and pitches that demonstrate the most potential.

Each of us contributes in a small way to how much single-use plastic the University uses. We hope to use the ideas of Ingenuity18 and identify the best ideas from our University community, helping us to avoid unnecessary plastics.

Posted in waste