Plastic Detox: Beyond the Intervention

Reducing the unnecessary use of plastics at The Students’ Union is an ongoing sustainability project that is hugely important to us all - read about what we have done in our journey to zero waste and get tips on how you can start yours!

Reducing the unnecessary use of plastics at The Students’ Union is an ongoing sustainability project that is hugely important to us all. In 2017/2018 the Student Sustainability Committee ran a campaign called Plastic Detox which has inspired action at The Students’ Union and across UWE.  Dramatically reducing consumption of single use plastics can seem overwhelming at first, but by changing simple policies, procedures, and patterns, The Students’ Union has made huge savings to reduce our impact in the last year alone. Read about some of the progress we have made so far on our journey to zero waste!


Single Use Coffee Cups – Own Mug Discount Scheme

Under the *Own Mug Discount scheme offered at The Students’ Union, we lowered our single-use plastic cup waste for coffee sales by 7% since 2017/2018. We saved enough single-use plastic coffee cups to build the equivalent height of 3.4 Big Bens!

*Did you know you get 0.25p off of your coffee if you bring your own mug?! Don’t have a mug? We also offer lots of fun options for purchase at the Shop and Bar!



Varsity Reusable Cups

Reusable plastic pint cups were rolled out at Varsity this year. At the Varsity Football match, enough carbon was saved by serving beverages in reusable cups instead of carbon-rich single use to equal the emissions from an average passenger vehicle driving 133 miles. That is more than the distance from Bristol to London!


Single Use Bar Cups

The Students’ Union has eliminated single use plastic cups from the bar – this is a total of 17,000 plastic pint glasses and 4,000 plastic half pint glasses that would have otherwise been sent to landfill. We now exclusively use alternatives like glass, reusable plastic, or biodegradable Vegware products. The carbon saved from all of these plastic cups is the equivalent of charging 193,819 smartphones – that is like charging every single student’s phone at UWE, University of Bristol, University of Bath, University of Cardiff, University of Oxford, University of Cambridge, University of Exeter, and University of Sheffield – that’s a lot of phones!


Additional Reductions

We no longer purchase/provide the following at The Students’ Union:

-Plastic Cutlery: all of our options are now Vegware

-Drinking Straws: We haven’t purchased/provided plastic straws for a year – we now exclusively carry compostable drinking straws, available upon request

- Sauce Sachets: We have significantly reduced the number of sauce sachets bought as all main condiments are available in large containers to add to meals at the sauce counter, or take away in a Vegware dipping pot



Interested in reducing your personal use of unnecessary plastics but don’t know where to start? We have highlighted a few tips and tricks for you!


Be Prepared: Keep your bag stocked with the following things to detox on plastics. Be a part of the solution!

-Carry a reusable coffee cup

If you haven't, head down to The Students' Union Bar and check out their range. When you purchase a cup from the bar you'll not only get your first coffee free but, there is also 0.25p off each time you buy a coffee with your own mug!

-Keep hydrated with a reusable water bottle

By topping up your water bottle at the Hydration Station on campus, you will be on the way to; improved brain function, higher energy levels, maximised physical performance, and that's just a few of the benefits. The Hydration Station is located by The Students’ Union Shop, in Union 1, Frenchay Campus. So, head down to Union 1 and make the most of it!

-Skip the plastic produce bags

Do you really need a plastic produce bag to cover your fruit and veg that come with NATURAL packaging? Consider buying some lightweight reusable cotton mesh produce bags to take when you do your grocery shopping – they are affordable, washable, and eco-friendly.



Swap out plastics for alternatives: There are plenty of plastic-free alternative packaging options out there!

-Ditch the cling wrap

Unlike cling film that cannot be recycled, foil is recyclable. So if you are using foil, make sure you put it in the recycling bin after use! Another alternative is the new Beeswax Wraps. Made using 100% cotton, Pine Resin, Jojoba Oil and local Beeswax they are 100% natural and environmentally friendly. This means no nasties will leach into your food whilst it’s stored, they’re reusable and compostable. Plus, they come in fun patterns!


Use loose leaf tea with a tea strainer instead of teabags that are sealed with plastic. Or give plastic free tea Pukka Tea and Teapigs a go! Disposing of teabags ultimately leads to microplastics entering our waterways and eventually our food chain.

-Bring back the milkman

Consider getting your milk delivered in glass bottles which are reused and recycled instead of your usual plastic pint. Many milkrounds also offer fruit juices too. Join the 4% of the British population who still get their milk delivered!

-Zero Waste Shops

Bristol is full of shops that are zero waste and carry products like grains, pulses, cereals, pastas, nuts, oils, toiletries, etc! Bring your own containers, jars or cloth bags to the shop; weigh them; fill them with as little, or as much of our loose products as you like; weigh them again and pay at the till. Every time you do this you will have played a part in reducing single use plastic consumption.


Change the way you eat: eliminate plastics from the menu! 

-Let go of frozen convenience foods

This is a tough one – but unfortunately, almost every single brand of frozen meals uses plastic in their packaging. Even for frozen food trays that seem to be made of cardboard are lined with plastic. The more we limit our consumption of frozen convenience foods, the less plastic waste we’ll generate and the healthier we’ll be!

 -Buy fresh bread 

At local bakeries or farmers markets, you can buy bread that comes in only paper. You can even have bread placed in your own cloth bag and avoid all packaging. Bread keeps fresh when stored in the cloth bag inside an airtight tin, so you don’t need to worry about it going stale.

-Avoid non-stick cookware.

Cookware coated with Teflon or other resins give off toxic perfluorochemicals when heated. Consider donating your non-stick cookware and replace it with stainless steel or cast iron. These materials are more durable that non-stick and can last a lifetime if taken care of properly!




This article connects to the UN Sustainable Development Goals