We are all aware of the significant threat that plastic pollution poses to our environment – plastics contribute to waste and pollution issues, impact on our health, and threaten our oceans and wildlife. The ‘Plastic Free July’ campaign reminds us that “single-use plastic is manufactured to last forever, yet is often used for a few minutes, before being thrown away.”

The aim of the global campaign is to raise awareness about what individuals and organisations are doing to reduce plastic consumption. For #PlasticFreeJuly, we caught up with some Scottish colleges to find out what action they are taking to cut back on plastic…

Glasgow Clyde College

The Glasgow Clyde College Student Association (GCCSA) team have designed Glasgow Clyde College re-useable cups, to cut down on the number of one-use cups being used and to reduce overall plastic waste. The reusable cups will cost £3 each and will be on sale in the next academic year when students and staff return from their summer break.

GCCSA have also made an agreement with the college’s Catering and Cleaning Manager – a voucher for a free hot drink will be available with each cup, and anyone using their cup will be offered a discount at campus canteens.

Jodie McNair, Student Association Development Officer, told us:

Left to right: Motwakil Muhammed (Vice President), Kacper Kacica (Vice President), Carol Small (Vice President), Sissa Rasmussen (President)

“Sustainability and the environment were high up on the agenda for our 2020/21 Student Officer team, but due to lockdown and them working most of their term from home, they didn’t have the opportunity to do much work around this. The idea of this project was that if they got it off the ground, the incoming GCCSA team for 2021/22 would be able to take it forward. GCCSA is about development and the future, not just one team at a time, and it’s important for teams to leave a legacy behind.”

Jodie added:

“A sense of belonging was also important to the team, which is why the Glasgow Clyde College logo is on all the cups. The two chosen colours – pink and blue – represent the college branding, allowing students and staff to feel part of the college wherever they are as they can also use their cup externally to gain discounts from other vendors.”

Dumfries and Galloway College

Dumfries and Galloway College has already worked to become free of single-use plastics across both its campuses, as well as introducing water dispensers to encourage refilling of water bottles. All items used within the college’s catering services are compostable and therefore less harmful to the planet than single-use containers. Where possible, the college works with suppliers to ensure reduced packaging for ordered items, resulting in less waste being produced.

The college’s Visual Communication students also teamed up with Dumfries and Galloway Devorgilla Rotary Club and Solway Firth Partnership to bring to life a very special project with a significant environmental impact in the region. The disposal of plastics, mainly in the region’s coastal areas is of great concern due to the rise of visitors to the area, the increase in population and changing attitudes regarding the environment. The students worked with the Rotary Club and Solway Firth Partnership to raise awareness of the issues around marine plastics, promoting and applauding the work already being done, communicating the impact of marine plastics on the environment, and trying to persuade others to make small changes to their lifestyles. The group did this by creating short animations for social media and other online platforms. The project highlighted how Dumfries and Galloway College staff and students are committed to promoting the message of sustainability and show the impact that plastics have on our environment.

Borders College

After releasing their new sustainability strategy, the Borders College team carried out an internal waste audit. The audit highlighted waste generation in their supply chain in relation to procuring cleaning products. The team analysed which materials were used and looked at alternative options that would significantly reduce the waste generated from plastic, card, and transport, as well as helping to streamline the process for staff to access a single product suitable for all activities.

The college is now taking steps to switch to a single-source cleaning product for all areas of cleaning within the college.

Robert Hewitt, Borders College Facilities Manager, said:

“We are planning to implement a single source cleaning product at Borders College next session. This will mean we will greatly reduce the use of waste plastic containers, waste cardboard boxes, wooden pallets and monthly deliveries.”

Dundee & Angus College

Dundee & Angus College has been working on reducing single-use plastics for several years. In 2014, the college removed all plastic and polystyrene take-away containers, replacing them with plant-based, compostable products which are composted on site. In 2018, bottled water was removed from sale on campus and water stations were installed.

2019 saw the start of D&A’s Period Positive campaign, to reduce period poverty.

Jackie Beresford, Dundee & Angus College Environmental Officer, explains:

“This project extended to not only ensuring everyone had access to period products but introduced many to the concept of reusables. This included supplying reusable products such as pads, liners, menstrual cups, tampon applicators and period underwear. Sew-your-own sessions were set up to teach people how to make their own reusable pads. These sessions were attended by all genders and resulted in packages of reusable products being sent to a girl’s school in Africa. The project saw a huge shift towards reusable products.”

The plan for the 2021/22 session, is to gradually reduce the amount of plastic used and sold in Borders College catering outlets, with a goal of being single-use plastic free on the consumer side by July 2022. Throughout the year, the college team will also be looking at procurement, with the aim of reducing single-use plastics throughout the college.

South Lanarkshire College

South Lanarkshire College are working with all suppliers and partner organisations to ensure that all products used on campus are as sustainable as possible. They have removed all single-use plastic cups on campus, encouraging students and staff to use reusable water bottles. The college has also worked with their catering company to use sustainable and recyclable packaging in their canteen, recently removing polystyrene products and providing discounts for people using reusable drinking mugs.

Craig Ferguson, Head of Facilities Management at South Lanarkshire College, said:

“Ensuring that we create a sustainable future for Scotland is one of our key priorities at South Lanarkshire College and we are continually working on ways to ensure our campus and practices contribute to a more sustainable future.”

City of Glasgow College

As part of their long-term commitment to sustainability, City of Glasgow College’s catering outlets and vending machines no longer sell single-use plastic bottles. Removing single-use bottles is part of a gradual elimination of single-use plastics that will be extended to disposable coffee/tea cups and tea bags. Canned drinks are offered as an alternative to plastic bottles and more water fountains have been installed throughout the college buildings.

Ahead of Glasgow COP26, the college continues to encourage staff and students to play their part in helping to reduce the college’s carbon footprint.

Fergal McCauley, Head of Facilities Management, who leads on environmental sustainability at the college, said:

“The last four years have seen the college undertake a variety of initiatives to ensure sustainability is embedded into all that we do. As an institution it is import that we focus on how to improve our impact on the environment. We have invested in equipment that allows us to compost an estimated 26 tonnes of food waste per year on site, and our electric vehicles see a reduction of 4.01 tCO2e in vehicle emissions by per year.”

In 2020, City of Glasgow College reached the finals of the GREENFLEET Awards for its clean fleet innovation. The college was also shortlisted for campus health food and drink at the Green Gown Awards and won the Climate Emergency Action Award at CDN’s College Awards.

Find out more about how colleges are working together to achieve a more sustainable future for Scotland – click below to read the Scottish Colleges’ Statement of Commitment on the Climate Emergency.

Read the Statement of Commitment here

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