University banishes plastic straws in latest green pledge15 February 2018
The University of Reading has continued its crackdown on plastic waste by ending the use of plastic straws on its UK campuses.
A motion to persuade Reading University Students’ Union (RUSU) to switch to biodegradable straws, charged at 5p, was backed in an all student vote and announced on Monday 12 February. This followed a student campaign to phase out plastic straws in RUSU bars and cafes, to mirror a recent policy in other University venues.
Paper and corn starch straws are being trialled in University-managed bars and eateries across Whiteknights, London Road and Greenlands campuses, after they all stopped ordering plastic ones in September 2017, in an effort to investigate a permanent replacement.
The straw pledges follow the introduction of drinks dispensers by the University, which allow students and staff to refill bottles with soft drinks or free water to cut down on disposable plastic bottles.
The Sustain It initiative, in partnership with Coca-Cola, also began last September. It aims to reduce the more than half a million plastic bottles thrown away every year across the Whiteknights and London Road campuses. The initiative has resulted in more than 100,000 fewer bottles being thrown away since it launched.
"I believe it will inspire people to pay more attention to their environmental impact, and to get more hands-on with student politics" - Kyle Smith, student campaigner
RUSU’s decision to use biodegradable straws, and introduce the 5p levy, followed a campaign led by RUSU’s Environment and Ethics Officer and Zoology student Kyle Smith. He was inspired to make the submission after taking a module run by the Geography and Environmental Science department, which teaches how to influence policy.
Kyle said: “'I'm very pleased to see the policy pass, and I'm really proud of the student community for supporting it. It's a hugely positive change that will allow us to really reduce our plastic waste, and showcase how much we value being environmentally friendly. I believe it will inspire people to pay more attention to their environmental impact, and to get more hands-on with student politics.
“Gaining an understanding of the concepts of nudging, of corporate responsibility, and how organisations can use their stances to influence consumers allowed me to campaign effectively for this policy and gave me the knowledge to write the policy submission.”
Ed White, RUSU Education officer, said: “I’m delighted to see that students have voted to introduce biodegradable straws instead of plastic, with a 5p surcharge to discourage use altogether. It shows the power students, like Kyle, have to create meaningful change within the Union and I’d thoroughly encourage others to get involved with Change It.”
"We have already given plastic straws the boot in our venues and RUSU following suit makes this a campus-wide pledge" - Matt White, University of Reading
Matthew White, Director of Catering, Hotel and Conference Services at the University of Reading, said: “The University of Reading is committed to cutting waste on campus, and reducing disposable plastics is one way we can do this. We have already given plastic straws the boot in our venues and RUSU following suit makes this a campus-wide pledge, while demonstrating our students are right behind what we’re doing.”
The University of Reading has committed to a number of sustainability initiatives in recent years, including other work ot reduce its carbon footprint.
At the end of 2016 the University of Reading achieved its target of reducing carbon emissions by 35%, while in October 2017 the University was named among the top five universities in England for reducing carbon emissions.