Sustainability Architect update: Charlotte

My main deliverables as Student Sustainability Architect have been to conduct a comprehensive review of all the Great Food at Leeds food packaging to ensure that the Catering Services are implementing best practice within the business. Packaging, although essential for food hygiene, has a lot of implications, from its manufacture and the usability, to how it is finally disposed of or reused. It is important to consider these challenges and implications when assessing new packaging types!

Since the publication of the 25 Year Environment Plan by the current UK government, there has been a nationwide surge to reduce plastic-use and to create radical changes in packaging. I have conducted research on the wide variety of packaging types currently in use to see what can be swapped out for more sustainable options, or eliminated completely. I have enjoyed this research, and learnt a lot about the material components and their potential negative impacts. At present, I am currently conducting life-cycle analyses of the types of products used to aid recommendations to the University.

A key part of my job here is to propose solutions which are applicable to the business and can be a real game-changer. Solutions I’ve looked at include; deposit-return-schemes (DRS) and KeepCup libraries. DRS are where consumers pay a small sum (let’s say 10p) on a purchase which is then refunded when they return the item. In the UK, recycling has fallen to 44%, however the Campaign to Protect Rural England estimates that recycling rates would increase up to 98% if we have DRS in place.

Unfortunately there are no DRS machines currently on the market in the UK. To overcome this, I’ve been scoping out international companies with the expertise in this field to building relationships and scope possible future procurement opportunities.

Selling KeepCup’s at the University has been a great success, with over 600 units sold in the first few months of the initiatives launch. Despite this surge around campus, there are some things that could aid in increasing reusable use, such as a KeepCup borrowing scheme for when people may forget to bring theirs into uni. I’m still working on the logistics of how this could work across the cafes and eateries on campus, but hopes are this might end the need to buy a hot drink in a disposable cup!

The next few months will see the launch of the Sustainability Market, which will take place on the 30th of April (watch this space!). This will be an opportunity to chat with students, staff and visitors on what the Sustainability Service are working on around food waste and other initiatives. We want to hear YOUR thoughts of on food packaging and what you think should be a priority. Also, keep an eye out for more questionnaires and surveys dotted around cafes on campus, a great opportunity for you to voice your opinion on what needs to be done to reduce food waste and improve packaging!

If you want to get in touch about any of the above please drop me an email – ee14cd@leeds.ac.uk