Sustainable UCL


10 ways to reduce your throwaway plastics

28 November 2019

UCL Conservation Group has launched a campaign against single-use plastics #plasticfreeucl - are you wise to your waste? Here are 10 simple green tips for reducing your throwaway plastics while at UCL

Plastic hub

Single-use plastics are items we use once or twice and then throw away. These items make life very convenient for us, but they never go away. They break down into smaller and smaller pieces and enter our food, water, and even our air, carrying with them nasty chemicals which are bad for us. We need to break our plastic habits and start reducing our use of single use plastics and turning to reusable instead.

1. Use a reusable water bottle

water bottles2

Tap water is safer than bottled water, and UCL has taps and water fountains available all over campus. You can also use the refill app to find free places to refill across London.

There are so many styles of reusable bottle you can find one to fit your lifestyle. Get an insulated bottle to double up as a thermos, or get a lightweight stainless steel one to not weigh your bag down. You can also get fold-up ones, so you’re always prepared to drink water on the go.

2. Say no to straws!

Reusable StrawsSpecify you don’t need a straw when you order. If you really have straw habit, consider buying a reusable straw to carry with you as part of your plastic free kit.


Metal, bamboo or silicone, you can get straws to take with you that don’t cost the planet.

3. Carry a reusable coffee cup with you


There are lots of designs and styles you can buy. You can even carry a ceramic mug from home! UCL cafes provide a discount if you bring your own mug, so it will save you money too.

There are thermos mugs, lightweight bamboo mugs, collapsible mugs and more, get one and get saving.

4. Always carry a foldaway reusable bag

reusable bags

You never know when it will come in handy, and it may save you the 5p for a plastic bag you will throw away.

Paper chase have a nice selection of foldaway bags, or you can get this sturdier tote from the marine conservation society.

5. Pack your own lunch


Yes this may seem like a lot of effort, but packing your own lunch in a reusable container not only saves the planet, but also your pocket and your health. You can make all your lunches in one day, or just cook a little extra at dinner time and pop it in a lunchbox for the next day. See how much you save, and have no choice but to stick to any healthy eating goals!

Amazon and ebay have a large selection of glass lunchboxes, or you can use lightweight metal alternatives, as long as you aren’t popping them in the microwave!

6. Rethink your toiletries


You can buy cotton buds with paper handles, bamboo toothbrushes (or get an electric one!) there are plenty of alternatives to wet wipes that remove your make-up and dirt from your face just as well. Our favorites are the make-up eraser cloth, which works with just water, or a good old fashioned flannel with a tiny bit of Lush’s ultra-bland. Never use wet wipes as toilet paper, even the ones that say they are flushable are not. Never flush anything down the toilet which is not human waste or paper, anything you flush can end up in the Thames, and in the ocean, no plastics please!

Careful with bamboo toothbrushes, often the bristles either can’t be degraded, or are sometimes made of animal products (depends if you are also trying not to eat meat) check the packaging and be aware of false claims. Brush with bamboo are honest about their bristles. If you’re on a budget any high grade oil (olive, coconut, avocado) removes make up like magic, just use a cheap cloth and hey presto, clean, soft face.

7. Rethink your food shopping

zero waste store

Try farmers markets and local corner shops, many have produce not wrapped in plastic, and they can offer better quality and/or cheaper food. There will also be a plastic free shop reopening in London soon, bulk market is currently crowd funding.

More information about bulk market can be found here!

8. Revise your recycling

recycling centre

Many people are not recycling properly, hopeful recyclers are causing more problems than those who don’t recycle at all.Check with what is accepted in your recycling facility, many recycling facilities need products to be clean before they can accept them. Make sure anything you throw in the recycling bin can be recycled. Check what to put in UCL's bins here.

9. Try waste-free Wednesdays

Reducing your waste can seem like a big challenge, try it one day a week to get started.

10. Get involved.

There are campaigns and initiatives throughout the UK working on plastic pollution, find out more and get involved. The UCL Conservation Group has just launched its plastics campaign, Plastic Free UCL.

Get in touch with them to find out more.