Thanks a million! Single-use plastic pledge


One million pieces of single-use plastic have been removed from use across campus during the past 12 months.

One year on from the launch of the joint University and LUU pledge to go single-use plastic-free by 2023, the University is celebrating some notable successes.

Dr Louise Ellis, Director of Sustainability at Leeds, said: “It’s hard to believe it has been a year since we made the #2023plasticfree pledge. This is a fantastic achievement – colleagues across the University have really taken the plastic-free pledge on and accomplished some brilliant things.

“Some great progress has been made, but we know there are more challenges that lie ahead. The ambitious target was made to inspire activity amongst our staff and students, to drive bold operational changes and encourage the innovative research that is needed.

“To achieve this pledge and drive the changes necessary across the industry, we need everybody to support it and find alternatives, where possible.” 

Some great progress has been made, but we know there are more challenges that lie ahead.

Dr Louise Ellis

Behind the scenes

In what is a complex challenge, some of the big wins to date include:

  • Affine Café in Nexus was developed with the Plastic-Free Pledge in mind, removing single-use plastics from its fresh food preparation and presentation, only providing hot drinks in mugs and reusable cups and selling soft drinks in glass bottles or cans;
  • Alumni and Development have changed the wrapping on its annual magazine from plastic to sustainably-sourced paper, saving 230,000 plastic wrappers from being distributed worldwide;
  • Devonshire Hall catering team has replaced sauce and spread sachets with self-serve bowls at mealtimes, cutting out more than 86,000 items per year; 
  • 22 teams across campus were awarded funding to reduce single-use plastic from their workspace, with a total of 222 mugs, 156 glasses, six water jugs and 96 water bottles provided;
  • Cohen Laboratory in the School of Earth and Environment changed its way of working to stop using single-use centrifuge racks in their labs, saving thousands of these items per year;
  • Estates installed an outdoor water fountain on the University Precinct, making free drinking water available 24/7;
  • Great Food At Leeds (GFAL) and LUU have replaced plastic salad containers with cardboard alternatives in The Refectory and Salad Box, cutting out 49,000 single-use plastic items;
  • staff in LUU have removed single-use plastic cups from all bars – equivalent to an estimated 63,000 cups per year;
  • Deli(very) has developed a recyclable cardboard alternative to the plastic trays for food deliveries, cutting the plastics figure by 500 items per week, which is due to increase by January when the project is fully rolled out;
  • milk deliveries have returned to campus, with a number of teams opting to use dairy deliveries in reusable glass bottles rather than plastic containers; 
  • buying hot drinks in reusable cups at GFAL cafés and LUU shops has cut down on 79,876 disposable cups.

Find out more about mapping plastic use and some of the networks and connections that have been established with people across campus and the wider city. 

More information

Visit the Sustainability webpage for more details about how to get involved.