AKU reduces waste by phasing out single-use plastic water bottles
AKU has recently made concerted efforts to phase out single-use plastic water bottles from all its campuses globally. Addressing waste reduction at its source is an important part of AKU's work on environmental stewardship and sustainability.
Plastic pollution on land and in oceans is a globally recognized problem. Plastic is produced from fossil fuel and takes hundreds of years to degrade. Most plastics get thrown out after each use and hardly any get reused or recycled, especially in the geographies AKU operates in.
AKU aims to be part of the worldwide shift to rethinking single-use plastics and adopting more sustainable practices. This is in alignment with the recently announced global treaty on plastic pollution agreed upon by 175 countries on 2 March 2022.
All AKU students, staff and faculty are encouraged to bring their own reusable water bottles to campus. In the absence of bottled water, water fountains or dispensers providing clean, safe, and filtered water are widely available in all cafeterias and most courtyards. Out-patients, visitors and attendants are provided with compostable paper water cups where required. For in-patients as well as during events and conferences, jugs and glasses are provided. In Kenya, reusable glass bottles are also in use such as for executive meetings.
As a result of these efforts in all AKU facilities, more than 750,000 bottles per year will be saved from ending up in landfills and polluting the environment. This has also helped reduce AKU's greenhouse gas emissions from plastic production as well as bottle transport, cooling and waste, altogether avoiding up to 9500 kg of CO2 emissions in Pakistan and Kenya each month.
To implement the transitions required to achieve these impacts, many stakeholders and departments from across the university were involved to encourage mindful consumption and incite positive behavior change. The initiative showed that individual choices and responsible action, nudged by organizational policy and accessible alternatives, can have far-reaching impacts. Change doesn’t always require expensive solutions and can often be instated with willingness and innovative policy ideas.
To extend this campaign beyond plastic water bottles and address other single use items, AKU plans to replace single-use plastic cutlery with natural birchwood cutlery, and is working on practice changes for food packaging, and ramping up awareness and collective action on reducing other plastics use.