University College Cork (UCC) has prevented 1 million single-use plastic cups from going to landfill - which stacked up would equal the same height as 393 Eiffel Towers or 294 Empire State Buildings.
UCC is aiming to become a zero waste campus by 2030 and a carbon neutral campus by 2040.
Plastic pollution is a global problem. Every day, the equivalent of 2,000 garbage trucks full of plastic are dumped into the world's oceans, lakes and rivers. Plastic pollution disproportionately affects marginalised communities and communities living in proximity to plastic production and waste sites.
Eliminating 1 million plastic cups from campus
In January 2023, UCC eliminated single-use plastic in its operations throughout on campus dining, shops and vending machines. A cup deposit and return scheme and the popularity of people bringing their own reusable cups to campus have led to the university hitting this milestone in less than one year.
Professor John O’Halloran, UCC President, said: “Single-Use Plastic packaging threatens our climate on a global scale. We know that it is imperative on all of us to take individual action against plastic waste. We are so pleased that UCC’s efforts have already prevented 1 million single-use plastic cups from going to landfill or incinerated – it is a significant step forward in our sustainability efforts at UCC and motivates us for the continued action ahead.”
Hayley O'Connell Vaughan, UCC Students’ Union Communications and Engagement Officer, said: “UCC Students’ Union is delighted to see the student-led Plastic Free UCC initiative making a huge difference across our campus. We are so grateful to our students who continue to push, fight and set the standards for sustainability and climate action in UCC and the wider community. Reaching this milestone shows how the small, everyday choices we make can have a huge environmental impact over a sustained period. The time for action is now.”
Setting sector leading targets
This year, UCC began to implement a five-year Sustainability and Climate Action plan which sets out 62 concrete actions that the university is committing to undertaking across the whole institution to reduce its environmental footprint.
“Through production, distribution and landfill, single-use plastics are a major threat to our environment and our health. Our students, staff and wider community have all come together to rethink the dangerous convenience of single-use plastics. These actions are part of our plan to become a truly sustainable university,’ said Dr Maria Kirrane, Head of Sustainability and Climate Action Office, UCC.
UCC sends student and researcher delegation to COP 28
UCC will send a delegation of students, academics, and researchers to COP28, the annual international climate summit convened by the United Nations, which commences today, 30 November in Expo City, Dubai.
Associate Vice-President of Sustainability at UCC and Director of the Environmental Research Institute Brian Ó Gallachóir said: “UCC was the first Irish University to secure official observer status at COP meetings, and we believe it is important for universities to maintain a presence at the talks. We need observers to stand witness to these important international negotiations and to critically assess the decisions made, in order to ensure the outcomes shape a better future for us all.”