Cleaner Production Promotion Unit - Masters by Research Theses

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    Plastic-free UCC: exploring societal and marketing levers
    (University College Cork, 2020-12) Hughes, Aoife; Byrne, Edmond; O'Neill, Claire; Dunphy, Niall; Mullally, Gerard; Kirrane, Maria; University College Cork
    Plastic pollution is a visible symbol of the increasingly urgent environmental issues facing our world. Single-use plastic packaging comprises about half of plastic waste produced, much of which is used briefly before disposal (UNEP 2018). Meanwhile only approximately 9% of all plastic generated by 2015 were recycled (Geyer et al. 2017). Such figures highlight an entrenched and unhealthy reliance on single-use plastic (SUP) within the current dominant social paradigm which promotes unsustainable levels of growth in consumption and disposal. This research examines how sustainable practices can be facilitated and supported within University College Cork to transition away from SUP. This was done using a mixed method approach of surveys and interviews to examine how stakeholders and community members navigated sustainable behaviour and what barriers they encountered. The research highlights the persistence of cost, availability of alternatives, personal preferences and unsustainable defaults as barriers to sustainable consumption. Infrastructure also influenced behaviour with a lack of supporting infrastructure limiting the adoption of sustainable alternatives. The attitude-behaviour gap also emerged as a barrier to behaviour change re-affirming the need for systemic change rather than relying on individuals to drive changes. The research shows the importance of those in leadership roles prioritising sustainability and the importance of sustainable champions to drive middle-out change in behaviours and policies. Finally, the research highlights the need for stakeholder involvement and collaboration to sustain sustainability initiatives and for their feedback to be used to adapt initiatives.