UConn’s Department of Dining Services recently announced that they will no longer use plastic bags at their locations. Instead, 100 percent recyclable and reusable paper bags will be made available at a cost of 10 cents. Dining Services will also coordinate with UConnPIRG to put up drop-off containers around campus where paper bags can be recycled and/or utilized by other customers. This move is one of several in recent years aiming to reduce waste and make the campus greener. Just last year Dining Services halted the practice of using plastic straws, and they recently phased out the use of plastic trays.
Historically, UConn has used up a great deal of plastic bags. In the 2017-18 fiscal year alone, 385,000 were used on campus. Being able to cut down this number will help protect the environment in several ways. First, employing reusable bags will reduce general waste and litter. While some did reuse the old plastic bags, stressing the reusability of the new bags will help encourage students to engage in environmentally responsible choices. Beyond waste, plastic bags present a threat to many animals, most famously sea turtles. Lowering the use of plastic bags will help prevent premature deaths among marine animals. Overall bag usage will likely fall sharply, and the bags that are used will not have the same detrimental impact as plastic bags.
UConn students played a large point in effecting this change. As previously stated, UConnPIRG was the leading driver behind removing plastic bags. They couldn’t have done it without widespread support, however. Surveys conducted by their Zero Waste Campaign showed around 90 percent of students were in favor of a switch. A subsequent petition that garnered over 1,000 signatures helped seal the fate of the plastic bags. It is important to recognize this as an example of what students can do when they work together to accomplish a goal.
Environmental issues require a multi-faceted approach to be combatted. Reducing plastic use is just one small part of what people can do to better protect the Earth. It is important to keep looking at our lives and strive to make decisions that can reduce waste. Often initiatives like this can seem almost meaningless because of the relatively small impact they have. However, that’s no justification for not pursuing them. It is only through coordinated action, with millions of people making adjustments to how they live, that we can make the changes necessary to properly care for the environment. Hopefully the students and staff at UConn continue to fight to make our campus cleaner and greener.