January 23, 2021

Students against the plastic plague

Almost every piece of plastic that has been produced is still on our planet.


In the 1950s plastic began to be manufactured on a large-scale basis revolutionizing everything from medical equipment, plumbing, vehicles, appliances, even clothing. It was inexpensive to produce and incredibly convenient, so much so that we began producing disposable products such as diapers, plastic bags, packaging material, and single-use kitchenware.


Fast forward 70 years. We have produced 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic, the weight equivalent of 1 billion elephants. That is an unfathomable amount of plastic. To make matters worse, more than 70 percent of it has been disposed of as waste.


In under a century we have created an enormous problem because plastic does not biodegrade.


According to plasticpollution.org, it can take anywhere from 500-1,000 years to breakdown and even then, trace amounts can be found in our water, our food, even our own bloodstream in the form of microplastics.


The health effects of these plastic pollutants are not yet known but the environmental implications are becoming very clear. Each year over 8 million tons of plastic are dumped into the ocean. This has created hundreds of miles of concentrated pollution such as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch which is twice the size of Texas.


The Center for Biological Diversity reports that every year thousands of animals die from becoming ensnared in plastic and thousands more starve or choke from consuming it.


This is not a problem that can easily be solved but there are steps that can be taken. Reducing the amount of single-use plastics used on a day-to-day basis is a small step that will make a huge difference in controlling waste.  


To combat the plastic problem, the NCC Climate Action Network, in collaboration with several other student organizations, released a proposal on November 27 to create an environmentally conscious cafeteria. The students are requesting that the cafeteria implement reusable plates and cups in an effort to reduce plastic waste on campus.


Their goal is to introduce the waste-free system during the cafeteria remodel that will take place over the summer of 2019 at the Bethlehem campus.


The effort will require the support and participation of the student body in order to move forward. A petition is circulating online that students can sign. Join the sustainability movement for a greener cafeteria at tiny.cc/ncccafe

For more information contact Daniel Stevens at dgstevens@nullspartan.northampton.edu


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