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NUS' #plasticpollutionfree campaign

NUS has launched #Plastic Pollution Free � a campaign to support educational institutions on their path to reduce plastics pollution! 

Keele University Students' Union plastic free shop 

Concern on plastics is highly evident amongst the student population, NUS research indicates 79% of students support a consumer levy on plastics and 52% support a ban of non-recyclable packaging. It is worth mentioning that not all plastic is bad! Plastics are a very versatile product that have many essential uses. In medical environments where avoiding contamination, single-use plastics may provide the one cost effective solution and can be safely disposed of. Most notably plastics may be essential to help people with disabilities go about their daily activities. For instance many people with disabilities require a bendy plastics for drinking. As you seek to reduce plastics please may sure you consider the needs of students with disabilities and make them aware through adequate signage that plastic straws and other items are available.

What have NUS been doing to tackle the plastic problem?


Discovering if Plastic Free Campuses are possible.
We have teamed up with the Greater Manchester Authority, the Manchester Mayor, Friends of the Earth and Manchester�s Educational institutions to explore whether plastics free campuses are possible. Following a round-table chaired by Sam Lowe, (Students� Union President, The Manchester College), attended by Andy Burnham and senior leaders across Manchester Institutions, NUS are working with institution sustainability leads and volunteer students to collate knowledge of existing best practice and identify significant plastics challenges. In March this year a second roundtable may bring us closer to a plastics pledge from Manchester institutions. 

Supporting Plastic Free Shops
Encouraged by the leading efforts of University of Sheffield Union who launched a Waste Free Shop, last year NUS took on board three suppliers to support with package free shopping. A number of Plastics Free shops are now cropping up across unions.

Encouraging reusable Coffee Cups and recycling
2.5bn disposal coffee cups used in the UK each year, and only 1 in 400 being recycled. Why? Most normal recycling plants can�t process the cups, because of the difficulty in removing the waterproof plastic lining inside from the paper outside. 

Pilot Schemes to Go Reusable
NUS has supported pilot schemes across 4 unions & universities to explore the best options to encourage reusable usage. Our report is coming soon!
In the meantime please see these case studies on unions/universities taking action on coffee cups. 

Costa Coffee Cup Recycling
NUS are working with Costa Coffee to implement trial coffee cup recycling infrastructure across 7 institutions. 
You can get involved by:-
1.    Make reusable cups available in your organisation shops. If you a SU staff member, see the range of reusable cups available through the NUS Consortium here.
2.    Download these free assets to start your own campaign. 


500 million straws are used and discarded every day in the United States alone � that�s 175 billion a year filtering into landfills and littering our waterways and oceans.
In 2017 NUS asked our unions and other organisations to pledge to make this #TheLastStraw. You can continue to spread the word by:

  • Request �no straw� when visiting bars and restaurants
  • If you're an SU, keep a stock of reusable or compostable straws behind the bar just in case your customer requests one.  There may be instances where you need to stock plastic straws i.e. some disabled customers may require one, so try and ensure these are recycled responsibly (see related articles below). 
  • See if there are local environmental organisations that you can work in partnership with.  The Students' Union at Bournemouth University is a great example where a team of student volunteers (The Green Taskforce) and VP Education Alex Hancox, will be working with Litter Free Coast & Sea this year to lobby the 18 kiosks and food outlets on Bournemouth beach-front, to ask them to change their single use vending plastics. 

We'll have more information coming soon but take a look at our website for more information on our plastic free work.