No to single use plastic

36 out of 1000 signatures


Lead officers:        

Rob Young, Vice President Society and Citizenship 2016/18

Zamzam Ibrahim, Vice President Society and Citizenship 2018/2019 and National President 2019/20


In 2017, a stream of outlets announced they would no longer be using non-recyclable straws in their bars and restaurants. NUS responded by launching the  #TheLastStraw campaign, reaching out to students’ unions to stop using single-use plastic straws in their outlets and beyond. 


What we did

We asked students’ unions to sign a pledge and created a host of assets that they could share on social channels and with students, as well as display in outlets. We supplemented our students’ union campaign with a media campaign gaining lots of momentum with coverage in the Guardian, issuu and The Alliance for Sustainability Leadership in Education to mention a few. 


Students’ unions up and down the country signed the pledge and used the campaign assets across their digital channels.  We teamed up with Litter Free Coast & Sea, working with a team of student volunteers from The Students' Union at Bournemouth University, to lobby the 18 kiosks and food outlets on Bournemouth beach-front, to change their single-use vending plastics.


What we achieved

Following increasing pressure from campaigns such as #TheLastStraw, a plastic straw ban in England came into force on 1 October 2020 with the devolved nations expected to follow.


On the plastics front, we teamed up with the Greater Manchester Authority, the Manchester Mayor, Friends of the Earth and Manchester’s educational institutions to explore whether plastics free campuses are possible. Following a round-table attended by Andy Burnham and senior leaders across Manchester-based institutions, in March 2020 they signed a pledge to eliminate avoidable single-use plastics.


Encouraged by the leading efforts of University of Sheffield Students’ Union who launched a waste-free shop,  and other plastic-free shops emerging across unions, including Keele and Manchester, NUS took on board three suppliers to support with package free shopping. The Trading Support team and Student Eats have been working in partnership to support six more unions to set up plastic-free retail outlets. Funding has also been provided through Student Eats which is part of the Our Bright Future programme funded by the National Lottery Community Fund.


What we’re doing now / next…

Students Organising for Sustainability (SOS-UK) was launched by NUS in October 2019 as an educational charity created in response to the climate emergency and ecological crisis.  SOS-UK supports students to learn, act, and lead for sustainability and continues the work that the original NUS Sustainability team started.


The Plastic Free campaign set up in 2019 supports educational institutions on their path to reduce plastics pollution and also includes the Coffee Cup campaign which gained traction shortly after #TheLastStraw


Find out more by visiting SOS UK.

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