In 2018-19, an estimated 132,600 plastic cups and bottles produced at Fruity were not recycled.
New statistics discovered by The Gryphon have revealed large quantities of plastic waste produced by the weekly club night at Leeds University Union.
On an average Fruity, over 6,500 drinks are sold in the venues Function, Stylus, and Pyramid. These drinks are served in either 3,800 plastic cups and 2,700 plastic bottles.
Over the course of the last academic year, there were 34 Fruity nights held at Leeds University Union. This would mean that an estimated 91,800 drinks in plastic bottles and 221,000 drinks in plastic items were sold overall.
The recycling rate for the University of Leeds campus is around 40% of items. This would mean that in the last year alone, 132,600 plastic items were not recycled and of those, 55,080 of those were plastic bottles.
The issue of plastic pollution has gained prominence in recent years, with television shows like Blue Planet 2 illustrating the effects of plastic pollution on the ocean.
Last year, both the Union and the University pledged to go single-use plastic-free by 2023 in an attempt to cut down on both organisations’ environmental footprint.
Nevertheless with current rates in mind, an estimated more than 500,000 plastic items, including nearly 250,000 plastic bottles, will not be recycled from Fruity alone between now and the academic year 2022-23.
There is also a question about the number of microplastics produced by the Union. In Terrace and Old Bar, hard reusable plastic cups are washed and reused. This process creates microplastics, small pieces of plastic that are often invisible to the naked eye.
In a study done in 2018 by the University of Leeds, microplastic particle numbers increased three times after rivers passed wastewater plants in Yorkshire. Microplastics have also been found in a third of UK-caught fish in a study by Plymouth University and found in many major brands of bottled water.
There is no evidence to suggest the ingestion of microplastics has an adverse effect on human health, though a study looking at the effects of plastic in the food chain at Columbia University is currently underway.
In their first report on the issue, the World Health Organisation found that most microplastics passed through the digestive system without being absorbed but acknowledges this report was based on limited evidence and called for greater research on the issue.
Nevertheless, plastic in the ocean has been shown to have an effect on marine health as microplastics can be ingested by plankton and make their way up the food chain of some species.
Some washing appliances are now fitted with filters that prevent microplastics from entering waterways but it is unknown whether the Union has such measures in place.
Last year, there was also a petition launched by students demanding the sale of plastic water bottles to be stopped in the new Co-op. They argued that this challenged a referendum held in 2008 that banned the sale of water in Union shops. The petition was unsuccessful.
A water tap was installed at the Co-op in April and by September, over 5000 litres of water had been used. This translates to roughly 10,000 plastic bottles if we use a standard 500ml bottle as a measure.
The Union uses plastic for safety reasons in Fruity and attempts to reuse shot glasses where possible. However, the new figures raise questions about the Union’s ability to stop using any single-use plastic in just four years if Fruity continues to produce this much plastic waste.
A spokesperson from Leeds University Union said:
LUU is committed to our joint pledge with the University of Leeds to become single-use plastic-free by 2023. The switch from disposable to hard reusable plastic in our bars and clubs has been a crucial step in trying to achieve our promise.
We know we’ve still got some way to go but we’re making some really positive steps every day to reduce the impact we have on the world. We’re keen to hear from students any ideas they may have on how we further reduce our single-use plastic and urge students to make as many changes they can to also become single-use plastic-free.
Main Image Credit: Ticket Arena/Fruity