Tackling Plastic Pollution on Campus
Management and disposal of solid waste material, especially plastics, has become one of the most challenging environmental problems of our time. And it is also basically solvable. The entire world has shifted, in the past 30 years, to single-use plastics as a way of eating, drinking, washing and packaging merchandise that goes straight into the waste stream, on to landfills and ultimately into the natural environment – with the accumulated waste lasting for decades and posing a hazard to living creatures including humans. It is clearly a problem for people and for nature and wildlife that is expanding globally including in the U.S.
Plastics of different sizes are being ingested by billions of creatures -- and are killing and/or harming endangered species at sea and on land; it is estimated that ingestion of plastic kills 1 million marine birds and 100,000 marine animals each year. Adults and children are taking in plastics every week through the food they eat and the water they drink with unknown long-term consequences, according to a recent analysis by the World Wildlife Fund.
In 2019, RecycleMania campuses recycled and composted 69.5 million pounds of waste and cut out more than 300 million single-use plastic bottles. Campuses nationwide are reducing their use of plastic waste through use of reusable food and drink containers and passing policies that ban items such as water bottles, plastic bags and plastic straws.
In fall 2019, RecycleMania will release a new guide, “Taking Action on Campus Against Plastic Pollution.”
The guide will feature:
> Basic to intensive level action for individuals and campuses
> Campus examples of plastic recycling and reduction strategies including distribution of reusable bottles and policies banning single-use plastic water bottles.
> Featured activity - International Coastal Clean-up in partnership with The Ocean Conservancy
NWF Resources on Plastic Pollution:
- A Plague of Plastics, National Wildlife Magazine, June-July 2019 Issue
- Significantly Reducing Single-Use Plastic Products in the American Marketplace, NWF Affiliate Policy Resolution, 2019
- Promoting Alternatives to Single-Use Plastics, NWF Affiliate Policy Resolution, 2018
- Consumption and Waste, EcoLeaders – Online Community for Young Conservation Leaders, Free to Join
More about Plastic Pollution:
- Freshwater areas are being permeated with plastics and waste, and drinking supplies are being dangerously degraded with poor filtering options. Landfills are designed to contain their materials and keep them from the surrounding environment; however, landfills still end up leaking a variety of pollutants. Leachate, liquid that forms as materials break down in a landfill, often leaks through the liners of the landfill and can pollute groundwater.
- According to a 2017 UN Environmental Report, scientists fear that chemicals in plastics and also chemicals which attach themselves to plastic in the natural environment could cause poisoning, infertility and genetic disruption in marine life, and potentially in humans if ingested in high quantities.
- Plastics manufacturing is a fossil fuel based enterprise with a large energy footprint that contributes to greenhouse gas emissions. According to a report by the Center for International Environmental Law, the plastics industry plays a major — and growing — role in climate change, by 2050, making and disposing of plastics could be responsible for a cumulative 56 gigatons of carbon, the report found, up to 14 percent of the world's remaining carbon budget.