University signs up to help Manchester go zero carbon and plastic free

The University of Manchester has announced its participation in ambitious regional initiatives to reduce carbon emissions and plastic use.

Along with other universities and colleges in Greater Manchester, The University of Manchester and its Students’ Union will work to eradicate avoidable single-use plastics from catering, labs and stationery by 2022. And, in the City of Manchester, the University will play a major role in the ambitious target of the city becoming zero carbon by 2038.

On plastics, the University has already taken a number of actions, including widespread and incentivised use of re-usable cups which saved 338kg of waste last year. University hotel and conferencing facilities have made changes which will save an estimated 10,000 plastic pens, 10,000 plastic straws, 15,000 plastic bottles and 48,000 bathroom shampoo and soap bottles each year.

The University of Manchester Students’ Union has also been reducing plastic and has opened a student-run zero-waste shop which sells dried goods, bread, honey and cleaning products. Instead of plastic packaging, customers bring their own containers or bags to fill up products and pay by weight or item.

These initiatives will run alongside important research being led by University academics such as a multi-million pound project to improve plastic recycling and look for sustainable alternatives. This follows world-first research which identified high levels of micro-plastic pollution in the region’s rivers.

Manchester’s carbon targets have been developed with the University-based Tyndall Centre and commit the city to a science-based ‘carbon budget’, capping total emissions at 15 million tonnes from 2018 – 2100.

Other University research, particularly in energy, is making a difference to reducing carbon emissions – developing new technologies and changing behaviour.

The University is already taking action on energy use, travel and the efficiency of buildings and is playing its part by encouraging sustainable practices among suppliers, staff and students. For example, in each of the last three years thousands of new students on campus have taken part in a Sustainability Grand Challenge – a teaching project aimed at increasing knowledge of these issues.

Professor James Thompson, Vice-President for Social Responsibility, said: “The University itself is estimated to be responsible for 5.9% of the city’s carbon emissions and through our network of suppliers, 12,000 staff and 40,000 students we can play an important role in driving change and influencing behaviour on climate change and resource use. We know that these are challenging targets, but along with our partners we are determined to fully contribute to a vitally important local project which has global repercussions.”