By the time you’ve finished reading this policy proposal, the equivalent of two rubbish trucks full of plastic will have made their way into the ocean (1). Much of this will be made up of single-use plastics like bottles, cups, food packaging, straws, bags and coffee cups (2). These items often cannot be recycled as they are designed to be used once and then thrown away. However, it’s not just our oceans that suffer the consequences of our excessive plastic use. Both the production and breakdown of plastics release poisonous greenhouse gases into our atmosphere, contributing to climate change (3). Not only this, but the plastic that litters our seas often results in the needless deaths of marine life and other animals (4). Living in Brighton, it’s not uncommon to see a seagull carrying a bit of plastic around in its mouth mistaking it for food. Whether you like seagulls or not, the same mistake is made by many other animals including turtles, seals, swans, ducks, dolphins, whales and all kinds of fish. But it’s not just animals who suffer due to plastic pollution. Micro plastics have even made their way into our food and water supplies, and have been linked to the development of various cancers, infertility and birth defects in humans (5). It’s clear that we are being overwhelmed by our plastic waste and something needs to change.
This referenda question poses a policy that aims to reduce, and eventually eliminate, single-use plastics in the Student’s Union. By passing this anti-plastic policy, our Student’s Union will have to both acknowledge that plastic pollution is a significant problem, and commit to acting to reduce it. The key areas that this policy tackles are plastic cups used at bars, excessive plastic packaging in the SU shop, disposable coffee cups, needless single-use plastics used by Pearl bubble tea, and plastic bottles. An important policy objective is to establish a sustainability committee. This will enable SU officers, venue staff, and passionate students to work together and ensure that the Student’s Union is being as environmentally-friendly as possible. The committee will also provide a clear route for campaign groups, societies and students to suggest further changes or express any environmental concerns.
Whilst we’re aware that plastic pollution is a complex problem that requires government action, progressive institutions should be doing their part to eliminate unnecessary single-use plastics that cause so much damage to our planet. Vote in favour of this policy so that our Student’s Union can do their part and encourage students to do the same. This policy lays the foundations for greater change around campus, and an essential shift in the direction of greater sustainability. Please support this policy proposal by voting yes so that we can do our bit to save the environment, and our futures.
1. Pennington, J. (2016). Every minute, one garbage truck of plastic is dumped into our oceans. This has to stop. [online] World Economic Forum. Available at: https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/10/every-minute-one-garbage-truck-of-plastic-is-dumped-into-our-oceans/ [Accessed 13 Apr. 2019].
2. Plastic Oceans International. (2019). Facts . About Plastic . Help - Plastic Oceans Foundation. [online] Available at: https://plasticoceans.org/the-facts/ [Accessed 13 Apr. 2019].
3. Royer, S., Ferrón, S., Wilson, S. and Karl, D. (2018). Production of methane and ethylene from plastic in the environment. PLOS ONE, 13(8), p.e0200574.
4. LeVee, D. (2017). PLASTIC CONVENIENCE CULTURE KILLING MARINE LIFE. [online] Global Animal. Available at: https://www.globalanimal.org/2014/07/17/plastic-invasive-to-marine-life/ [Accessed 13 Apr. 2019].
5. The Lancet Planetary Health (2017). Microplastics and human health—an urgent problem. The Lancet Planetary Health, 1(7), p.e254.
You can read more about the referendum and vote at www.sussexstudent.com/referenda