Last week’s #UQ5DaysofPlastic challenge, organised and run by the Green Office, was a waste-reducing win for everyone involved! The initiative was a huge success, with over 70 participants from schools and departments across UQ, including the School of Psychology, the Centre for Clinical Research, the Centre for Biodiversity and Conservation Science, the Queensland Brain Institute, International House and the Global Change Institute.

To take part in the challenge, all participants had to do was fit all the single-use plastic they went through over the course of five days into a single jar or small container. This proved both easier and harder than expected—while many participants realised that their disposable plastic use was already low, some encountered unexpected hurdles along the way thanks to the amount of packaging that’s used for items as varied as mushrooms and biros:

External sources, from food vendors to office goods suppliers, were by far the most significant generators of plastic packaging—for most participants, the simple act of bringing their own lunch and food utensils to work was the most effective way to wave goodbye to single-use plastics.

Actively encouraging others to reduce their plastic reliance helps spread the sustainable word, too. International House staff will be asking their suppliers if they’re able to reduce the amount of plastic packaging they use for deliveries; Global Change Institute staff promoted using a coffee press in the office instead of single-serve pods:

Here are some other easy but effective top tips from our enthusiastic #UQ5DaysofPlastic participants:

  • Bring your own water bottle and KeepCup to work.
  • Bring your own lunch in a reusable container or reusable wax-coated wrap.
  • Bring your own cutlery.
  • If you buy food on campus, go for options that come served in paper or biodegradable containers, or ask if this is an option (some sushi stalls on campus will serve you your food in a paper bag if you ask them to---thanks to QBI’s Julia Groening for this tip!).
  • Take reusable grocery and produce bags with you when you go food shopping.
  • Take your soft plastic packaging to Coles or Woolworths—both supermarkets now have soft plastics recycling bins (thanks to Julia Groening and to International House’s Kim Newbigging for this tip!).
A huge thank you to everyone who took part and shared their experiences and advice on social media. Cutting down on your single-use plastics takes a little bit of effort that goes a long way, and we hope you’ll all keep up your fantastic waste-saving work and encourage others to do the same!

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