Sustainable UCL


Plastic Waste Reduction Database

Single-use plastic is embedded in almost every part of life, yet when it becomes waste its impacts are not evenly distributed.

Plastic hub

1 February 2022

Why is plastic waste an environmental justice issue?

Every year, 8 million tonnes of plastic enters the ocean and 80% of that is single-use. According to the World Economic Forum, that’s like emptying the contents of one waste truck into the ocean every minute. This is a huge environmental issue, and it’s a justice issue too.

The UN Environment Programme recognises that plastic pollution disproportionately impacts marginalised communities and those living in proximity to plastic production and waste sites.

Importantly, when we ‘dispose’ of an item, it doesn’t just cease to exist. Our act of ‘disposing’ is really one of movement and transformation.

Understanding how waste is a dynamic element of global systems of production and consumption is crucial for moving towards environmental justice.

Help us capture plastic reduction actions

At the beginning of July, we launched a form to capture all the plastic reduction actions that are happening on campus. This will enable us to track our progress towards our goal of becoming single-use plastic free by 2024, and will guide institutional level actions in areas that can have the highest impact.

We’re also encouraging as many people as possible to take part in Plastic Free July, though we acknowledge that overemphasising individual actions can detract from the systemic and institutional shifts required. Plastic Free July is about making small changes, it is not about shifting responsibility away from institutions. Bringing together all our actions we can create a culture at UCL of choosing to refuse plastic.

This kind of collective action ensures that plastic waste is no longer forgotten about the moment it is discarded and helps us make meaningful change.

Add to ​the Plastic Reduction Database →