USF should find new ways to reduce plastic waste

Water bottle filled with debris floating underwater.
There are simple solutions we can implement to address this problem. SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE

Student Government is currently considering a “plastic-free” resolution which would ask USF to move toward more sustainable options and would do away with single-use plastics such as straws, cups and cutlery.

Specifically, the resolution calls for the campus to “establish a purchasing policy which eliminates campus and food vendor procurement of all non-essential, non-compostable, single-use disposable plastics — while keeping accessibility and affordability at the forefront of decision-making to ensure that accommodations are made for all users of the system.”

Groups like the Break Free From Plastic Movement (BFFPM) have been pushing for this change and gathering signatures from USF students.

Passing this resolution and implementing it systemwide is a big ask, but the move would do a lot for the environmental movement that seeks to stop the onslaught of single-use plastics stifling the environment and filling up our waterways and oceans.

Nearly 18 billion pounds of single-use plastics finds its way into the ocean from coastal regions, according to a study by the University of Georgia from 2015. It is clear how massive the problem is, which makes the initiatives from institutions like USF paramount to creating a better future.

We already make substantial efforts to make recycling accessible and have paper straws in the Marshall Student Center (MSC) food court, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t more to do.

In an interview with The Oracle, BFFPM campaign coordinator Heather McClurg suggested alternatives to plastic.

“Simple changes can be made like giving real silverware out in all dining areas that can be washed and reused,” she said. “Providing reusable cups and straws to all USF students so they have the tools to make these transitions.

The plastic bags used at shops like the USF Bookstore and food court could also be replaced by a paper alternative. Working with the different brands in the MSC to find alternative takeout containers will be more complicated, but still worth exploring.

Other universities are taking similar steps. Eckerd College just recently committed to establishing purchasing practices designed to be ecologically stable.

If we decide to make the bold step of moving away from single-use plastics, that gives us the opportunity to develop innovative solutions that can protect our oceans from further pollution.

Jared Sellick is a senior studying political science.