The plastic straw conversation that has recently circulated social media has reached USF.
On-campus dining facilities have started to transition from providing plastic straws to paper.
Jessica Cicalese, USF Dining’s marketing director, said the first step is to remove plastic straws from the Marshall Student Center, which has already begun. The end objective of Dining is to be plastic-free in all 30 dining locations on campus by 2022.
As a goal of its Green Thread platform and Sip Smarter initiative, Aramark — USF’s food service provider — aims to reduce single-use plastics across its global operations by 2022, according to its website.
There is no exact date yet as to when USF Dining will be completely plastic-free.
“It’s going to take some time, but any way we can work toward that and be more eco-friendly is what we’re looking for,” Cicalese said. “Reducing our plastic was the first step, but now that we have the paper straws, the next step is looking at what type of lids and cups we could get.”
According to Cicalese, there will be paper and plastic straws available upon request when this change does happen.
Cicalese said that the exact price differences between the paper and plastic straws Dining is purchasing is not available.
According to Cicalese, there is no student demand for this change, but she believes students who may not be happy with the change will see the value of it.
“By creating that knowledge of why we’re doing it — and we’re going to be putting more marketing up about why we’re doing it,” Cicalese said. “I think it’ll spread to more students and they’ll catch on.’”
According to Cicalese, it is necessary to be conscious of the different restaurant brands on campus — Starbucks, Chick-fil-A, BurgerFi, Moe’s, etc. — when implementing this plastic-free philosophy. Dining still has to offer the products a particular brand supports, but it can also offer environmentally-friendly alternatives.
The introduction of paper straws, however, is just one initiative in a slew of recent changes.
All residential dining locations are already plastic-straw and plastic-cup free with the elimination of the ecoGrounds cardboard cups last year, Cicalese said. Dining introduced the Cupanion program last fall, which allows students to buy a reusable cup for $5.
According to Cicalese, this eliminated one million pieces of trash last year.
As the single-use plastic conversation circulates on campus as it did on social media, Cicalese said she thinks students will adapt.
“Students took a while to get used to the no disposable cups in the dining halls, but when they know the message behind it, and how much trash we’re eliminating from the landfill, they’re like ‘wow, I’m making an impact,’” Cicalese said.