Aberystwyth has become the first university in the world to be awarded Plastic Free University status.
The award has been made by marine conservation charity Surfers Against Sewage as part of its Plastic Free Communities campaign.
The campaign focuses on reducing the use of plastic items that are used only once before being thrown away, such as plastic bottles, coffee cups and lids, bags, cutlery, straws and stirrers.
Whilst there are still some single-use plastic items within the University, the scheme recognises the great work being done to reduce their use and the institution’s ongoing commitment.
Rebecca Davies, Pro Vice-Chancellor and Chief Operating Officer at Aberystwyth University, said:
“The worldwide challenge of reducing plastic polution can not be underestimated. Around 300 million tons of plastic are produced globally every year, with approximately half destined for single use items. In addition, around eight million pieces of plastic find their way into our oceans every day, which are often mistaken by fish, whales, dolphins, turtles, seabirds and seals for food. As a coastal university, these issues are close to our heart and the challenge for us as an institution and as individuals is to look at how we can contine to reduce single-use plastic, for the benefit of the environment.”
James Harvey, Campaign Officer at Surfers Against Sewage, applauded the University’s efforts, saying: “Congratulations to the Aberystwyth University team, staff and students on this significant accomplishment. Our coastlines, beaches, seas and rivers everywhere are being overwhelmed by plastic pollution and it is now hard to exaggerate the urgency of the need to reduce our collective use of throwaway plastics.
“Aberystwyth University now has a strong framework in place to establish the UK’s first Plastic Free University campus. This is a fantastic achievement for Wales and we would like to challenge other organisations in the university sector to follow suit.”
Aberystwyth University set up a Plastic Free Working Group in March 2018 to lead the phasing out of single-use plastic on campus. Initiatives already agreed include:
- A 15p levy on all plastic disposable cups from 1 September 2018 to encourage coffee and tea drinkers to use re-useable cups.
- Biodegradable salad containers and compostable hot food boxes introduced for takeway food in catering outlets, along with biodegradable cutlery and straws, with all available to be taken away in paper rather than plastic bags.
- Free water dispensers installed at nine of the University’s cafes and restaurants to help promote the use of reusable water bottles.
The push to become the first certified plastic free university has backing at the highest level with endorsement from the University’s Executive and Council, who are also doing away with single use plastic bottles and cups at their meetings.
In June 2018, the University also hosted it’s very first awareness-raising Plastic Free Day, with guided litter picks, an information stand on the Piazza and a free screening ofA Plastic Oceanat Aberystwyth Arts Centre.
Aberystwyth University’s Environment and Sustainability Advisor Dewi Day, who chairs the Plastic Free Working Group, said: “Becoming the world’s first Plastic Free University is no mean feat and what we have achieved has laid great foundations for the further reduction of single use plastic at Aberystwyth University. However, there is so much more that can and needs to be done over the coming months and years but we are committed to making a real difference.”
The announcement has also been welcomed by Aberystwyth Students Union, whose Wellbeing Officer Molly Longden said: “I am immensely proud to hear that Aberstywyth is the first accredited plastic free university in the world. It is a testament to all involved and shows how much of a change the student body can make when it works with the university towards a common goal. It also shows that Aberystwyth is maintaining its position as a progressive and world-leading university, one which definitely sets a clear benchmark for other universities – in addition to this being a brilliant moment for the University, union and community. I am sure the University will keep progressing and innovating and I am extremely excited to help carry on this work in the future.”
The University’s plastic-free team are now working on additional ways of reducing single-use plastic.