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Plastics Programme

Our Plastics Programme

Every item we use has an environmental impact, but single use plastics are particularly challenging. They move very quickly from manufacture through to waste, are often littered, are difficult to recycle and do not break down safely in the environment.

They also have a climate impact, and contribute to the climate crisis - one of the biggest challenges facing society. Greenhouse gas emissions are created through manufacturing, transporting and disposing of single use items in huge quantities around the world.

Since 2018 we have been working across the University of Leeds and Leeds University Union to remove single use plastics from our operations. Together we removed more than a million single use plastic items whilst also developing a deeper understanding of the challenges around replacing single use plastics. Whilst some areas of the University can be considered to be plastic free as a result of this work, there are other areas where it has proved more challenging particularly in areas such as laboratories.

With the publication of the University of Leeds Climate Plan committing to delivering net zero emissions by 2030, the time is right to refresh our approach to single use plastics. We have taken everything we learnt from our plastic journey to date to develop our Plastics Programme, which is aligned with the University's Climate Plan and approved by the Climate Plan Programme Board. We continue to be commited to tackling single use plastics as well as considering the wider challenges of over-consumption and single use items.

Our vision

Our vision is of a University where materials and their impacts on the planet are managed responsibly.

How can you get involved?

The Plastics Programme requires collaboration from all areas of the University and Leeds University Union (LUU), including:

  • Operational changes that include mapping single-use plastic, building knowledge and capacity to support plastic removal and reduction, and changing operational processes.
  • Research on single use plastic across academics and the student curriculum to find innovative alternatives, develop infrastructure and promote behaviour change.
  • Collaborative networks  of activity  between staff and students as well as with external stakeholders, supply chain and sector partners in order to share learning and overcome the challenges  together.

Whether you are a student, a member of staff or a visitor, you have an important role in supporting the programme.

Help us monitor plastic use

Use our form to tell us where you've seen single use plastic in use on campus, to help us identify where it can be reduced or removed.

Make an impact

Become a Staff Sustainability Architect or develop a Blueprint plan to reduce single use plastic and embed sustainability in your school or service. You can also join our Staff Sustainability Community on Teams to share ideas and best practice.

Reducing single use plastics in labs

Labs have proven to be one of the hardest areas at the University to eliminate single use plastics, but that doesn't mean we can't do a lot to reduce them. Join our Sustainable Labs network to find out more about how to reduce plastics and improve sustainability in labs.

Research single use plastics

Contribute your own research through projects or a dissertation on helping to solve the challenges around single use plastic and their alternatives.

Choose to Reuse


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United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

We use the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a framework to guide our activity. Our plastic programme is linked to the following SDGs:

  • Goal 9: Industry, innovation and infrastructure
  • Goal 12: Responsible consumption and production
  • Goal 13: Climate action
  • Goal 14: Life below water
  • Goal 17: Partnerships for the goals

Find out more about our impact on the SDGs.

United Nation Sustainable Development Goal 9: Industry, innovation and infrastructure United Nation Sustainable Development Goal 12: Responsible consumption and productionUnited Nation Sustainable Development Goal 13: Climate actionUnited Nation Sustainable Development Goal 14: Life below water United Nation Sustainable Development Goal 17: Partnerships for the goals