[22 April 2024]

Earth Day 2024: Planet vs. Plastics – A Call to Action for Businesses

As we celebrate Earth Day in 2024, the theme “Planet vs. Plastics” resonates more profoundly than ever before and unless we take radical action now, there’ll be more plastic than fish in our oceans by 2050. Plastic pollution has become one of the most pressing environmental challenges of our time, threatening the health of our planet, its ecosystems, and all forms of life.

Here at the University of Hull’s Aura Innovation Centre (AIC) we recognise the urgent need for action and on this day, we wanted to reflect on some of the practices that we have adopted to reduce out plastic footprint and to demonstrate that reducing plastics in business doesn’t have to be complicated or time consuming and even small changes can make a huge impact.

#Implement the 3 R’s

No, we don’t mean Rest, Relax and Recuperate – there’s no time to relax where plastic is concerned! We are talking about the 3 R’s of waste management Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. When broken down into three easy words it makes more sense.

At the AIC we looked at our plastic use across all our services and considered ways we could REDUCE it. In our event space, ConneX we have reduced the amount of plastic packaging we use – implementing the use of plastic free teabags which are compostable, jars of coffee instead of plastic sachets, milk jugs instead of individual cartons and refillable glass water bottles instead of individual plastic bottles.

We have reduced our single use plastic by REUSING all our plastic containers by refilling and re-purposing. We use refillable handwash bottles and refill cleaning supplies with eco-friendly cleaning products. We also encourage our catering suppliers to reuse their plastic trays, which we wash and return to them for reuse. We have also furnished our FleX collaborative workspace with  furniture repurposed from across the University Campus helping save on the amount of waste ending up in landfill and additional plastic waste created as a result of the manufacturing process. Our tenants love the eclectic mix of furniture which makes a cosy home working environment.

We have made RECYCLING easy and accessible throughout the AIC with clearly labelled recycling bins for different materials such as paper, cardboard, glass, and plastic. We encourage all users of the AIC to utilise the recycling bins were possible.

Our InventX team have taken recycling one step further by using recycled Polylactic Acid (PLA) filament in the majority of it’s 3D printed project work.

Read how the team used a recycled natural PLA material to produce 3D printed plankton for The Deep.

#Cutting-Edge Research

Another R to consider is RESEARCH and the University of Hull has a strong track record in plastic research. Pooling academic research expertise together the University has formed the Plastics Collaboratory a diverse team of academics combining a wide range of expertise, from politics to physics, environmental sciences to engineering. Led by the Energy and Environment Institute, they aim to understand the pathways and interactions of plastics in the environment, helping drive the direction of future plastic related research.

Find out how the AIC helped researcher Freija Mendrik in her microplastics project.

3D printed coral for research - Aura Innovation Centre

#Innovative Solutions

The fight against plastic pollution requires continuous innovation and collaboration across industries and here at the AIC we’ve been helping a range of businesses to turn their innovation ideas into reality in order to protect our planet. One business who got in touch with us is Hull-based company Rainbow Professional, a leading manufacturer of forestry and horticultural products. They wanted to take their green business to the next level by looking at alternative materials for plastic tree guards. We supported them on their mission to develop a new innovative material which is 100% plant based and you can read the outcome of this project here.

The AIC are also proud to work in collaboration with Floreon, world leaders in bioplastic development and trailblazers in the battle against plastic pollution. Floreon are based at the AIC and are a great example of how we can work with specialist research and development (R&D) businesses by combining access to our flexible work space to conduct everyday business activity with our cutting edge technology within InventX to help support continued R&D.

#Knowledge sharing

At the AIC we believe strongly in collaboration to achieve success and it’s important that everyone works together to encourage others to care for our planet. The University of Hull is one of the founder members of the Oh Yes! Net Zero campaign, which aims to share best practice between organisations to make Hull a net zero city.

Oh Yes! Net Zero

And so, as we celebrate Earth Day, we’re proud to showcase the steps we’ve taken to combat plastic pollution. From embracing sustainable packaging, promoting refill and reuse initiatives and encouraging recycling to exploring innovative materials, and conducting world leading research we’re demonstrating our unwavering commitment to environmental responsibility.

Together, let’s continue to prioritise the planet over plastics and pave the way for a healthier, more sustainable future.