All Hands on Deck: Working Toward Using Less Plastic

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Grab a straw, drink your soda, throw the straw away and repeat. How many plastic utensils, straws and bags do we use everyday? It’s the kind of question that society tended to ignore in the past. That is, until we started to realize the damage it’s causing. Dining locations at James Madison University such as PC Dukes, Festival and Market One all rely on plastic straws, plastic packaging and plastic bags. Plastic is cheap, disposable and malleable, but maybe if we could see where this plastic goes after we’re done using it, then we could make a change in our careless habits. As human beings, it’s our responsibility to take care of our planet.

Where does the plastic that we use go? Plastic never truly dissolves and has a huge impact on organisms, from the bottom of the food chain to the top. Bodies of water are being greatly impacted. Animals are ingesting the plastics, floating trash is blocking sunlight from reaching sea plants and the plastics are breaking down into micro plastics which are almost impossible to clean. Yet, we continue to worsen the problem by carelessly throwing away plastic. With only 3% of water on earth being clean enough to drink, we should be doing everything we can to slow the rate of contamination. The photo below shows a plastic fork that was pulled out of the nostril of an olive ridley Sea turtle.

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Awareness is now being spread across the globe as we start to absorb the gravity of the situation. The problem is affecting plants, animals and our own health. According to Greens Senator Peter Whish-Wilson, who proposed the Inquiry that called the state and federal governments to take action against marine pollution,

“The most frightening evidence was that every item of plastic that enters the ocean breaks into a million tiny pieces and that these micro-plastics get taken up by lifeforms as small as plankton and then accumulate up the food chain. While the impacts on seabirds and marine mammals are starting to become clearer, the potential impacts on human health of eating seafood with these micro-plastics are alarmingly unstudied.”

Doing the little things to avoid using plastic and seeking out alternatives goes a long way in helping the environment.  Some people have turned to other solutions such as edible utensils which are slowly becoming more popular as awareness of the plastic problem spreads. Fortunately, JMU has started to take measures to use less plastic. Compostable cups, food containers and ECO Products are currently being used in some dining locations, which includes 100% renewable utensils.

Ideally, we would stop using 100% of plastic. I’m not asking you to do that…yet. This is a huge problem that everyone needs to be on board with. We need all hands on deck to conquer this massive problem. Come with me and take the first step. Try to refrain from buying products with plastic packaging, use the plastic bags as little as possible and drink your soda without a straw. Challenge yourself to use less plastic in the JMU Dining Halls and spread awareness to your friends and family.

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