A Plastic Free St Andrews

This is a reproduction of a Transition University of St Andrews blog post from the University of St Andrews.

Interview with Daphne Biliouri-Grant, co-ordinator for the ‘Towards a Plastic Free St Andrews’ initiative. The initiative is led by the St Andrews Environmental Network, a local environmental charity, in partnership with the Environmental Office of the University of St Andrews and Transition UStA, a community interest company promoting sustainability.

This interview was conducted by third year student Annabel Personeni, studying Sustainable Development at St Andrews and actively participating in the initiative as a ZeroWaste intern with Transition UStA.

What does Single-Use Plastic mean?

Single-use plastics, also known as disposable plastics, are plastic items that are used only once and then thrown away or in some cases recycled. Some of the most prominent single-use plastics include bags, straws, disposable cutlery, water and soft drink bottles and food packaging. It is estimated that over 180 million tons of disposable plastic is being produced on an annual basis and on average less than 10% of these items are recycled globally. Given that single-use plastics have a long lifespan and release toxic chemicals into the environment, it is imperative that disposable plastics are replaced by alternative sustainable products.

Why do you think St Andrews is a good town to implement this in?

St. Andrews is quite a unique town not only in Scotland but in the UK as a whole. It is one of the most prominent towns in Scotland due to its internationally renowned university and also because it is ‘the home of golf’. Because of its international presence, it attracts over a million visitors on an annual basis and with a student population of approximately 10,000 it could become a great example for other towns throughout the UK to follow.

How does you past professional experience help you in leading this movement?

I have been passionate about the environment all of my adult life and over the years I have worked closely with numerous environmental groups worldwide on a voluntary basis. Both my academic background and my professional career have focused on environmental politics and corporate governance.

I have spent the past 25 years advising governments, corporates and SMEs worldwide on reputational risk management with particular emphasis on stakeholder engagement.  Therefore, having managed numerous stakeholder analysis projects and conducted reputational assessments on several corporates in terms of their corporate governance and sustainability objectives both on a national and international level, I have developed the skills essential for co-ordinating this initiative.

Over the past couple of years, my focus has been plastics pollution as I consider this to be one of the most urgent environmental issues that plagues the world. Single-use plastics represent the main cause of plastic pollution on a global scale and no country is immune to the devastating effects of this unprecedented level of pollution. While international initiatives are being considered, the urgency of addressing the issue of plastic pollution requires immediate action at all levels – local, national, and international – simultaneously. I have been working closely with various NGOs and conducting extensive research on what the government and the business community can do to provide viable solutions to the issue.

In terms of the St. Andrews initiative, my goal is to help develop and co-ordinate a strategic plan that will help all the involved stakeholders to eradicate single-use plastics. I want to share my knowledge with like-minded people and motivate others who are keen to get involved!

Continue reading the full blog here and get in touch with Transition St Andrews if you have any questions.

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