Earth Day 2024: Planet vs. Plastics


Earth Day 2024 takes place on Monday 22 April and to mark it our Sustainability Team have created this post.

Earth Day is one of the most prominent annual awareness days that sheds light on the importance of on our planet’s health and our individual roles in preserving it.

This year, the theme is Planet vs Plastics. At the University we recognise the urgency of addressing the plastic crisis and are actively working towards sustainable solutions and achieving net zero carbon as part of our strategic framework Liverpool 2031.

The plastic predicament

Plastics have undoubtedly revolutionised various industries, offering convenience, affordability, and versatility. However, this comes at a significant cost to our environment. Single-use plastics have inundated landfills, polluted oceans, and harmed wildlife. With over 380 million tonnes of plastic being produced each year, it’s vital that we work towards ending its production. This year, Earth Day is demanding a 60% reduction in the production of plastics by 2040, with the ultimate goal of ending plastic production altogether.

Taking action

Recycling can help reduce the amount of plastic waste ending up in landfills or the environment, however it does have limitations in terms of its impact on carbon emissions and microplastic pollution. So as an institution responsible for educating the leaders of tomorrow, the University is working to establish a robust culture of reuse, and reduction, along with recycling. Here’s some of the things we’ve done so far:

  • We are making good progress with implementing the Laboratory Efficiency and Assessment Framework (LEAF) across the University. LEAF contains actions which lab users can take to save plastics, water, energy and other resources. Several labs have now achieved silver and gold awards, which assess their use of consumables including single use plastics.
  • Water refill stations in University catering venues and libraries have been listed on the Refill app, enabling individuals on our campus to search for the nearest place to refill their own bottles, cups and containers based on their location at any time.
  • Staff and students can purchase a Bottle Up reusable water bottle and get it refilled for free at any catering outlet. The bottles are attractive enough to keep, durable enough to last, safe enough to refill, and just as convenient as any other water bottles.
  • Of the 100,000 hot drinks served each year, our Keep Cup Campaign is aimed at increasing the use of reusable cups from 4% to 25%. Reusable keep cups are available to buy at outlets across campus and the first drink is free, and everyone can enjoy a 25p discount at our coffee outlets when using a reusable cup, and hot and cold-water refills are available for free.
  • All delivered catering comes with reusable plates and drink cups. Biodegradable take-away containers, cups and cutlery products are provided in all food outlets, plus individual plastic sauce sachets and individual plastic milk pots have been removed.
  • We recently saved an estimated £50,000, diverted more than 4 tonnes of waste from landfill and saved over 8 tonnes CO2e by reusing and repurposing furniture as part of the Foundation Building refurbishment.
  • The Queen of Greens bus is now making weekly visits to campus where staff and students can buy affordable fresh fruit and vegetables in a sustainable way. The bus sells produce loose to cut down on both waste and packaging.
  • Our students are also taking action with the UoL Student Circular Economy Project. The project team are a group of University of Liverpool mechanical and design engineering students working collaboratively to implement a circular economy on campus, starting with the recycling and repurposing of single use plastic bottles.
  • Leave Liverpool Tidy is a reduce, reuse, and recycle project ran by the Guild of Students, which aims to reduce the number of reusable items going to waste at the end of the semester. The scheme primarily encourages students to donate unwanted items for redistribution to those in need, as well as charities and shares messaging around mindful consumption. Liverpool Tidy litter picks occur several times each semester and volunteers work to keep the environment clear of litter – not only on campus, but also further afield, in places such as local beaches and student dense communities, helping to prevent microplastic leaching and harm to wildlife.
  • Part of the 2024 Earth Day theme is a call to end fast fashion, which is an industry driven by plastic-based, fossil-fuel intensive fabrics, including nylon, polyester, and rayon. The Guild’s swap shop allows students to donate unwanted clothes, shoes and accessories in exchange for tokens, which can be used to purchase others’ items. These events are crucial in minimising the need for students to turn to fast fashion when the need for new clothes arises, as they are able to trade and repair their old clothes for no cost. The next swap shop takes place on Monday 29 April 2024, 10am – 4pm at Mountford Hall. Find out more.

Earth Day Hub

Visit the University’s dedicated Earth Day Hub to find out how we are harnessing our strengths in research and education to drive forward the solutions and cultural change needed to move to a fairer, more sustainable future. Our researchers are informing policy and creating new technologies, and you can be part of the solution by making small changes to your lifestyle or studying one of our climate-related courses. Hear from our experts, students and alumni who are creating positive change, and how you can make a difference with the huge variety of projects and activities that staff and students can get involved in.

Upcoming events

Go Bananas for Earth Day

If you would like to get involved in Earth Day, join the Sustainability Team on Monday 22nd April from 11:00am – 2:00pm in the Guild of Students as we showcase our work, plus test your carbon literacy with our How Bad are Bananas game to win some eco-friendly prizes.

We will also be joined by students from the Circular Economy Project team who have designed and 3D printed a diverse selection of products using recycled plastic collected on campus, closing the circular loop by selling items back to students. Explore the full range, from bottle openers to phone stands, all offered at fantastic value. No booking required.

Sustainability at the FRCS Discovery Day

Why not take time out of your busy schedule to come along to the Sports and Fitness Centre anytime between 10.00am and 3.00pm on Wednesday 24th April to learn more about the support and services the Sustainability Team deliver. Join our exhibition stand and hear from the Energy team about how we look after energy and utility operations and monitor our energy consumption, what we are doing to make the University more sustainable and the range of opportunities to get involved. No booking required.

Energy Centre Tour – exploring the hub of heat and power on campus

As part of Making an Impact 2024, our Carbon and Energy Manager Ben Parker will be delivering a guided tour of the University’s Energy Centre to PGRs, research staff and research-related professional services staff. This tour will give participants an understanding of the important role our combined heat and power (CHP) gas engines and heat network have in meeting the daily energy demands on campus. See this impressive, large-scale plant and equipment up front whilst learning about the energy/carbon saving benefits of operating such systems and gain an insight into the challenges faced by universities operating energy centres moving forward with regards to future energy demands, climate change resilience and achieving Net Zero carbon targets. Thursday 23rd May, 11:30am – 12:30pm. Register to attend here.

How can my research contribute to sustainable innovation?

Are you interested in solving societal and global challenges? Join our online workshop as part of the Making an Impact 2024 programme, and explore how to boost your research impact and contribute to sustainable innovation on Wednesday, 5th June at 11:00am – 12:30pm. This session is available to PGRs, research staff and research-related professional services staff from the University of Liverpool and Sumy State University. Register to attend here.

Find out more

Combating plastic pollution requires a collective effort. As individuals, we can make a difference by reducing our plastic consumption, reusing products whenever possible, and recycling responsibly. There are numerous actions individuals can take to minimize the impact of plastics on the environment, check out our tips to be sustainable to help you to embrace a plastic-free lifestyle.

Our staff sustainability training and development webpage provides an overview of the resources and opportunities we provide to increase staff sustainability knowledge and skills.

Our response to the climate crisis is part of the University’s wider approach to sustainability; one which aims to drive forward social and environmental equity and uses the UN Sustainable Development Goals as a supporting framework. If you want to know more about our work on sustainability, please visit: or email