In 2018 The University of Leeds and Leeds University Union together pledged to become single-use plastic-free by 2023.

This commitment to phase out single-use plastic across the board, not just in catering and office spaces is a very complex challenge. It involves mapping plastic use across the University and Union and then identifying action plans to end its use through finding alternatives and changing ways of working. It will also require working with external partners and supply chains to phase out the amount of plastic products and packaging coming onto campus.

The pledge commits catering and office spaces to becoming single-use plastic-free by 2020, with the longer-term goal of lab space and other services by 2023. This is a very ambitious target and will involve collaboration, research and operational changes to be successful.

Take a look at our strategy for how we plan to achieve this.

How can I help?

Progress so far

1 million pieces already removed

One million pieces of single-use plastic have been removed from use across the University and Union during the first year of the pledge.

This is a fantastic achievement – colleagues across the University have really taken the plastic-free pledge on and accomplished some brilliant things and we can already celebrate some notable successes.

Successes so far

  • Devonshire Hall

    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

  • School of Earth and Environment

    Cohen Laboratory in the School of Earth and Environment changed its way of working to stop using single-use centrifuge racks, saving thousands of these items per year

  • Great Food at Leeds

    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

How can you help?

We need everyone’s support to achieve the 2023 target!

We’ve developed an Offices Toolkit to help our colleagues by providing the latest advice and guidance on how to remove single-use plastic from offices. If you’re a staff member click here to access the Offices Toolkit and start your journey towards being single-use plastic free. The toolkit includes:

  • Posters to print and stick up in your area to raise awareness of your contribution to the #2023plasticfree campaign
  • Template documents to review your working area and create an action plan to make changes
  • Case studies of progress across the University; from single-use plastic free washing up facilities to teaching resources

Tell us about a change you’ve made

Have you made a change within your place of work or study to contribute towards the #2023plasticfree pledge?

If so, let us know about it because we’d like to add it to our grand total (of pieces removed) and help other department make progress by sharing best practice across the University!

Please download this form and email the completed document to – one of our team will be in touch to discuss this further.

What’s planned for 2020?

Our main priorities for the next year include:

  • focusing on catering and offices to make them single-use plastic-free by the end of the year
  • engaging with retail partners and suppliers to find innovative solutions to remove single-use plastic from their packaging
  • working with procurement to understand our plastic footprint further, across all areas of the University; and
  • promoting best practice and sharing knowledge to encourage further activity, both within the University and across the Leeds city region and the HE sector as a whole
To get more information on the #2023plasticfree campaign complete the form below;
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Our strategy

To achieve our ambition of a single-use plastic-free University we will work closely with stakeholders including staff, students and suppliers, to identify plastics and develop action plans to remove them or replace them with sustainable alternatives.

The delivery strategy involves three key elements; operational changes, research and collaboration, which are all underpinned by communication, engagement and governance. Details of these areas have been outlined below:

  1. Operational changes
    These are the operational changes required across the University to manage and reduce single use plastic. This will involve mapping single use plastic, building the knowledge and capacity of staff, and changing policies, guidelines and processes of operational procedures in support of the pledge.
  1. Research
    We will actively encourage and support research around single use plastic, including alternatives, infrastructure developments and behaviour change. This will be encouraged through academics projects, student curriculum projects and our Living Lab programme.
  1. Collaboration
    We will build networks of activity internally between our staff and students and externally with our stakeholders, supply chain and sector partners in order to share learning overcome the challenges together.

Contact us

Get in touch with us and show us what you’re doing through our social media using #2023plasticfree and tagging us on Twitter @UoL_Sus, Instagram @uol_sus  and Facebook @UolSustainability or email ideas to

To understand our definition of single-use plastic, why we made the pledge and details behind the timeframe, view our current FAQ page here.