Wrapped for recycling

7 Oct 2016

Three of the many events at this year’s Sustainability Week highlighted one of our most pressing sustainability problems: plastic waste. The Fork It! display and survey encouraged staff and students to reduce the use of single-use plastic cutlery on campus; the Bag It film screening highlighted the effects of plastic on our oceans and our bodies; and the Reusable Living seminar offered tips for adopting a more environmentally low-impact lifestyle.

There’s never been a better time to discuss these issues—it’s an unfortunate fact that Australians are some of the highest waste producers in the world. According to 2015 figures from Clean Up Australia, we generate a whopping 48 million tonnes of rubbish every year—that’s over two tonnes each! Most worryingly, almost half of that rubbish is either dumped in the environment or in landfill instead of being recycled.

Plastic is a big part of the problem. Every year, we send 6 million tonnes of waste into the sea, and 80% of it is plastic—that’s 46,000 pieces of plastic for every square mile of ocean, and those pieces are killing more than a million seabirds and 100,000 mammals every year.

The stats aren’t pretty, but the solutions are within our grasp. Cleaning up our waste generation means avoiding single-use plastics and choosing recyclable or biodegradable packaging where possible. Several food outlets at UQ are doing just that, so keep them in mind next time you’re feeling peckish on campus: Guzman y Gomez serve their nachos, burrito bowls and salads in biodegradable containers, and Wordsmiths Café serve their takeaway Campos coffee in recyclable cups with biodegradable lids.

A number of other outlets at UQ’s Main Course Food Precinct also serve their food in recyclable cardboard containers or paper bags.

Campus catering services can cater to your sustainability needs, too—UQ’s St Leo’s Catering has a sustainability policy, which means they use biodegradable coffee cups, sugar cane, plant fibre and BPI-certified containers, bowls and plates, compostable cutlery and recycled paper napkins. 

Knowing what’s recyclable and what’s not can often be confusing, so check out the Sustainability Office’s handy list of online recycling posters so you put your rubbish in the right bin!