The Plastic Waste Crisis

As students, it is important that we reflect on our carbon footprint and how we can do our part to achieve a sustainable future. Plastic waste is a huge issue. Our planet does not have the room or resources to keep up with disposing the quantity of waste humans produce. A drastic change started in the 1950’s, where the plastic waste in our environment grew exponentially. National Geographic reported that 91 percent of plastics are not recycled and this waste ends up in our oceans. One mass of plastic waste found in the North Pacific Ocean is around 100 tons and is more than twice the size of Texas. This plastic is not decomposing anytime soon either. Plastics contain additives increasing its strength and durability for commercial purposes; however, this results in the waste taking at least 400 years to break down. The plastic is then left plaguing our oceans for centuries. This accumulation of plastics is harming our marine life, suffocating algae and trapping seabirds. This is slowing eliminating aquatic biodiversity which has detrimental effects on our ecosystem. 

As university students, Queen’s allows us to express our passion for the environment and raise awareness for climate change. University campuses seem to be more advanced than most communities when it comes to working towards sustainability. This was evident on September 27th when every Ontario university participated in the climate strike. In my time at Queen’s I have noticed meatless Mondays in the cafeteria, and the AMS’s recent diversion from fossil fuel producing companies. While these efforts are impressive, I find it interesting how many instances of single use plastics are still on campus. Many on-campus food options serve single-use plastic cups; Starbucks, Tim Hortons, Co-Gro . As well, plastic bags are used at stores on-campus, such as Drug Smart in the ARC. How can we be so advanced in some areas of reducing our carbon footprint, while single-use plastics are still so apparent on campus. 

Photo by Roscoe Dillman / @peregrine_productions

There are so many ways we, as students, can reduce our carbon footprint, and the amount of plastic waste we put into the environment. Purchasing reusable grocery bags are a small one time fee that reduces the hundreds of plastic bags given out at grocery stores. Starbucks has reusable cold and hot cups for $3, which you could bring to any cafe on campus. The Tea Room, a student-run coffee shop, even offers a 15% discount to any customer who brings in a reusable cup for their beverage. Plastic water bottles, while convenient, are a huge contributor to this waste. Stainless steel water bottles are the sustainable option and actually save you money as a one time cost, rather than constantly purchasing plastic bottles. We can all do our part to contribute to a sustainable future, and I hope that all of you will reflect on your carbon footprint and make a change, because every step counts.

Photo by Hailey Rodgers