Why are we still using single-use plastic on campus?

I’m sitting in the food court next to University Hall and wondering to myself just what to use as a basis for my research report. I see people chatting and happily eating heaps of different foods from all the surrounding stalls. I see them stand, tidy up their table and head out the doors. Almost all of them stop momentarily before the doors to chuck a few scraps in the bin. This makes me wonder, how much single-use plastic waste are we unnecessarily producing as a campus?

The crazily degrading effect single use plastics have on our environment is no secret. The problem with plastic is it’s convenience, which sadly is also it’s attraction. It is way easier to grab a fresh plastic fork than it is to remember one from home. The same goes with water bottles, food containers, and coffee cups. The microplastics that make up most products actually aren’t able to break down properly, and end up just building up in landfill, rivers and oceans (Nature Geoscience, 2018). And this isn’t just a nationwide dilemma, it’s a global phenomenon.

See I want to explore the mindset of students around the topic of sustainability, and on top of that, ways in which the university tries to reduce single-use plastic consumption, and ways it can improve.

I want to look at some of the main contributors to waste at campus, as well as some of the most popular ways to combat this waste problem.

Food packaging seems to be one of the most common contributors to plastic waste. This, as well as coffee cups and plastic water bottles. But as climate awareness has risen dramatically in the last decade, so has the availability of non-plastic alternatives to combat the production of single use plastic. KeepCups have taken over, being readily available at most coffee shops, BioCutley has been introduced, and even packaging made from composted food waste. There is lots of potential when it comes to the UOW Main Campus for a plastic free future.

Other universities have tried and succeeded at removing single-use plastics from their food courts, so why cant we? The University of Technology in Sydney has successfully introduced a Plastic Free 2020 Plan (Buhagiar, D. 2019).

Hopefully over the coming semester I will be able to look a little deeper into the minds of students and the university alike, and see just how much we want to achieve a plastic-free future, as well as how likely it actually is.

Biography

https://theconversation.com/there-are-some-single-use-plastics-we-truly-need-the-rest-we-can-live-without-99077

Harvey, P 2018 ‘There are some single-use plastics we truly need. The rest we can live without.’ The Conversation.

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41561-018-0132-6#citeas

Nature Geoscience, 2018 ‘Pervasive plastic.’

https://www.uts.edu.au/about/about-our-campus/news/uts-going-plastic-free

University of Technology Sydney, 2019 ‘UTS is going plastic free.’ UTS Campus News

https://www.uts.edu.au/news/campus-community/eliminating-single-use-plastic-one-food-court-time

Buhagiar, D, 2019, ‘Eliminating single-use plastic, one food court at a time’ UTS Campus News

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