Working Towards a Single-Use Plastic Free Campus

The next time you stop to quench your thirst in the Student Precinct, you might notice that something looks a little bit different.

That’s because we’ve been working closely with our wonderful food and beverage retailers to remove all plastic beverage bottles from the precinct.

The Student Precinct Project provided a unique opportunity to embed sustainability practices into retailer contracts from the outset. The Sustainability Team worked with forward-thinking stakeholders at the University to commit to a plastic beverage bottle free precinct, walking the talk of our sustainability goals and creating real change.

In addition to our retailers, all vending machines on campus that are managed by the University of Melbourne also no longer sell beverages in single-use plastic bottles. But removing plastic beverage bottles is just one way that we are reducing single-use plastics in our community!

What are we doing to reduce single-use plastic?

The Sustainability Team has been working hard to implement a range of initiatives to reduce single-use plastic in our community:

  • Our Choose to Reuse Plate Program is reducing the need for takeaway food containers and cutlery on campus. Simply ask your retailer to serve your meal on a reusable item and feel good knowing that you’ve cut down on single-use waste.
  • We have also installed a Reuse Vending Machine on the ground floor of Arts and Culture that offers a range of reuse items, including water bottles and keep cups. There are also Water Refill Stations available across our campuses to refill your bottles and keep you hydrated.
  • Forgot to pack your keep cup? No problem. Download the Green Caffeen app and scan out a reusable coffee cup at participating cafes. Enjoy your waste-free coffee and return the cup to any participating cafĂ© (bonus: no cleaning required!).

three photos showing reuse initiatives at the University of Melbourne: two people enjoying lunch on reusable plates, the reuse vending machine, and a person holding a Green Caffeen coffee cup Our goal is to eventually create a completely single-use plastic free campus. Everyone has a role to play and each of these initiatives are helping us to achieve this ambitious goal together.

Can’t we just recycle plastic beverage bottles?

All of the work we are doing to reduce single-use plastic on campus is supported by the targets in our Sustainability Plan 2030.

Part of this plan is to move towards a circular economy - a transformative concept that aims to keep items in use for as long as possible. In a circular economy, we aim to reduce the number of items flowing through the University and reuse items wherever possible.

Diagram comparing the linear economy, recycling economy, and circular economy We are working hard to implement solutions to the plastic problem that reduce the amount of single-use plastic on campus and offer reuse alternatives to our community.

What do we mean by the Plastic Problem?

In February of 2023, the Victorian government banned the sale and supply of some single-use plastic items across the state. This ban is a response to the environmental and financial consequences of single-use plastics, which make up a third of the litter in our environment. Single-use plastics are difficult to recycle, harm our wildlife, and contaminate our food and water.

That’s why we are so committed to finding effective solutions to reduce single-use plastics in our communities and beyond.

What can I do, you ask?

Some things you can start doing today include asking for your meals to be served on reusable items, investing in a reusable water bottle, and downloading the Green Caffeen app. Share your knowledge about reducing waste with your faculty, friends, and community. When we all make small changes, it adds up to big results.

And while we work to reduce plastic at all times of year, this month is Plastic-Free July. This initiative is a great opportunity to take stock of the products we consume and to find more sustainable alternatives. You can join the challenge for 1 day, 1 week, 1 month, or from now on!

Join us in the challenge to find alternatives to single-use, disposable plastic, and let's work together to create a more sustainable world.