One of UConn PIRG’s most recent endeavors is to launch a campaign known as Stop Styrofoam, which aims to encourage companies like the Dunkin Donuts on and around campus to cease their use of Styrofoam products. Currently, Dunkin Donuts uses Styrofoam cups and lids, despite the fact that their Serving Responsibility Report indicates an attempt to move away from Styrofoam. However, while this is a productive and environmentally conscious move by UConn PIRG, the organization would do better to address broader issues and extend their impact.
Styrofoam is severely detrimental to the environment. It is manufactured from the human carcinogens benzene and styrene, and its production generates vast quantities of greenhouse gases, including hydrofluorocarbons, which break down the ozone layer. When it is thrown away, it becomes a pollutant in many ecosystems, including bodies of water, and it takes over 500 years to decompose. Thus, it is important for the Stop Styrofoam campaign to discourage Dunkin Donuts’ use of the product.
The issue is that because of these harmful effects, many companies and groups have already stopped utilizing Styrofoam products, so this initiative is not very far-reaching. It would be more productive for UConn PIRG to take a broader aim at discouraging the unnecessary waste of these disposable products.
For example, as Dunkin Donuts attempts to move away from the use of Styrofoam, the company is exploring alternatives such as paper and plastic cups, which would avoid the carcinogenic materials that make up Styrofoam and its long-term decomposition, but the problem of paper waste would still be an issue.
By the same token, UConn itself has largely ceased the use of Styrofoam, but there is still a massive amount of paper and plastic waste that the university and its students are responsible for. Currently Dining Services and Dunkin Donuts both have programs that give students discounts if they bring their own reusable mug, and it is programs like these that need more emphasis. An initiative that could be directed not only toward the dangers of Styrofoam, but also toward general waste prevention, would be much more productive for UConn and the surrounding community.