Let UoB be a Green Example | Redbrick | University of Birmingham

Let UoB be a Green Example

Comment Writer Ida Thagesen argues that we need to reduce plastic waste not only at home but on campus too

In 2014, total waste production in the United Kingdom amounted to 251 million tonnes.

Most of this waste ends up in the ocean, heavily damaging ecosystems and reducing biodiversity by killing sea animals. Recently, Greenpeace revealed that Coca-Cola increased its production of plastic bottles by a billion last year. These plastic bottles, and all the other plastic bottles we use, are huge contributors to the eight million tonnes of plastic entering the oceans every year.

Eight million tonnes of plastic entering the oceans every year

Sounds horrible, doesn’t it?

Well, the good news is that plastic waste can quite easily be turned into other products. Companies are currently specialising in turning plastic bottles into textiles. For instance, ‘Unifi’ (the makers of Repreve) have transformed more than four billion recycled plastic bottles into products such as jeans, car seats and fleece jackets since 2009. But this development comes with re-cycling, re-manufacturing and creating incentives to change customer behaviour.

In countries such as Denmark & Germany more than 90% of plastic bottles are returned

Michael Gove acknowledges this. Last Monday, he proposed a view on settling up a deposit return scheme. This has worked greatly in countries such as Denmark & Germany, where more than 90% of plastic bottles are returned. In England, this figure is only 57%.

The University of Birmingham and its students should also acknowledge this. As England’s well-educated future, we can and must take more responsibility in mitigating the environmental damage we make.

We can and must take more responsibility in mitigating the environmental damage we make

We don’t have to wait until a DRS becomes national policy (if it does!). According to the UoB website, ‘Birmingham is working to reduce its negative environmental and social effects.’

To live up to this, what could we do right now?

First, we could start by charging £1 on each plastic bottle sold on campus (and setting up a stand where you can return your bottle and get the £1 back). Second, we could put up extra bins that separate glass, cans, plastic and cardboard - right now the trash bins only separate waste into two. That is simply not ambitious enough.

Recent developments in the European Union are another example of the green agenda not being ambitious enough. It recently ruled out adding a tax on plastic products to reduce waste. According to the Guardian, the vice president of the European Commission, Frans Timmermans, argued that a tax would ‘not be sustainable.’ This makes it even more important that we take social and green responsibility.

So: let us be the good green example!

I’m going to leave you with a slightly controversial question: Could we even make it UoB policy not to sell plastic bottles anywhere on campus? I wouldn’t rule it out.


20th October 2017 at 9:00 am