Environmental protection is absolutely necessary. Plastic waste from humans causes our earth to suffer. Trashed plastic specifically tends to end up in the ocean and can be found inside over 90 percent of seabirds in the world. Only a minority of plastic is biodegradable and most plastics cause harm when left in landfills or oceans.
Due to the environmental consequences, there was a recently proposed plastic ban in the city of St. Paul. This ban was meant to remove all use of plastic take-out containers within restaurants. With the looming threat of global warming, many cities are attempting to take action against single-use plastic waste.
There are tricky steps and complications when a city tries to implement a full plastic ban, so the matter would be simpler to take care of on our campus. With Minnesota Student Association presidential elections happening now, it's important to listen to the candidates' takes on banning plastic.
Mina Kian and Jael Kerandi's platform focuses on sustainability. They bring these ideas into practice with MSA on a smaller level, such as internally limiting the use of plastics. Candidates Spencer Kleinshmidt and August Schutz aim to decrease the use of plastic by focusing on straws. They hope to work with Coffman Union restaurants to change the types of available cups so straws will be used less, unless specifically requested. These candidates have clear sustainability goals and keep some focus on plastics. While these efforts are good, our campus should push harder for the complete elimination of plastics.
The University of Minnesota can do this by following the proposal that began in St. Paul. Take-out containers are the starting point for this goal; by using compostable materials for the containers, the carbon footprint of the entire University would decrease. The University bookstore could do more to reduce the number of plastic bags handed out, too. While the bookstore has started giving out cloth bags, it could stop using bags altogether or have a space where students can return the cloth bags if they no longer have a use for them.
Other campus shops should have alternatives to plastic bags as well. There should be cloth bags available for purchase at all campus stores, so that waste is decreased significantly.
The use of reusable materials should be something we take seriously. It would be ideal to have a campus where all materials are compostable, there is less single-use plastic and there is more awareness of ways to help the earth. Since recent reports have outlined that global warming is reaching the point of being irreversible, it is absolutely necessary for us to take action against this threat. Hopefully, St. Paul's proposal will encourage other cities in our state to reduce and limit use of plastic. In the meantime, it's our University's responsibility to take steps toward change in order to ensure our earth will be able to support us for years to come.