Moving towards a Post Plastic Generation
We’ve all seen the global media campaigns targeting single-use (disposable) plastics. As a society, we are increasingly becoming aware of the environmentally catastrophic impacts of the plastic waste. But just how sustainable are students at Erasmus University, and, more importantly, what can we do to improve?
The Post Plastic Generation was formed last year (2017) with the goal of reducing the consumption of single-use plastic on campus. Working as part of the Erasmus Sustainability Hub, the group are raising awareness about how sustainable practices can be implemented. Starting with five members, the project has now gathered support from a large group of motivated students, eager to raise awareness of the issue and encourage a reduction in plastic waste amongst consumers and food providers on campus.
To give a better understanding of the problems that our University is facing, the group surveyed over 700 students. The results of the survey show that 84.8% of students purchase food or drinks at SPAR weekly. While this is not in itself unsustainable, almost half of respondents used disposable plastic forks and coffee cups when purchasing from SPAR or the Food Plaza. These single-use plastics are responsible for the overflowing rubbish bins on campus as well as more global challenges, such as the concerning amount of plastic waste within the ocean, which is predicted to outnumber fish by 2050 (Ellen MacArthur Foundation report, 2016).
Take-away cups are a common sight in the hands of students briskly walking across campus amid what may be the height of to-go culture. Yet many are unaware of the plastic lining of these cups that makes them difficult to be recycled. Based on the amount of coffee consumed by students, it seems a more sustainable option is needed, and there is certainly a demand for it, with over three-quarters of students saying they would use a travel mug if it was given to them. The Post Plastic Generation believe that a cup-sharing programme could be a solution to this issue. This would involve using a reusable cup (mug) which would then be cleaned when returned and ready for further use. Such schemes have proved successful elsewhere in the world, such as in Germany where Freiburg University has launched the “Freiburg Cup” initiative. Here at Erasmus University, a petition signed by over 1,000 students in four weeks has demonstrated the strong level of support for a similar cup-share scheme. This could be the first of several actions taken from the university towards a plastic free campus, which is the ultimate vision of the group
However, it’s not only through petitions that the Post Plastic Generation have been making themselves known. You may have spotted the group’s ‘plastic forest’ in Theil building during the Erasmus Sustainability Days. The eye-catching “art for awareness” instillation successfully drew attention to a sight that we could increasingly be seeing on campus: trees littered with plastic bags. The next event of the Post Plastic Generation will be the “trash me” campaign in May. The group will collect plastic waste from students and “wear” it on a specially designed suit to see how much plastic can be worn in a regular week.
If you would like to get involved with the Post Plastic Generation, you can sign the cup-sharing petition. The group can also be found on social media, where they will be keeping everyone updated with their future projects.
Facebook: Post Plastic Generation
Or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
By Florence Mitchell-Green