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Thursday, June 20, 2024

Students work toward reduction of single-use plastic bags

Students are pushing to get rid of single-use plastic bags at the campus bookstore. If successful, they hope to expel the bags from the university and city as well.

The collaboration includes ASUCD Senator Darwin Moosavi and members of the Environmental Policy and Planning Commission (EPPC), as well as CalPIRG’s Forests and Oceans Campaign. They are creating a proposal, which will reflect the group’s ideas for the best environmentally friendly option to replace single-use plastic bag distribution.

“Petroleum-based, single-use products, like plastic bags, which never degrade, serve no purpose in a society that’s heading toward carbon neutrality and a sustainable future,” said Will Quinn, chair of EPPC.

The group will introduce the proposal to the Campus Unions Recreations Board (CURB) this week. In order to move forward, the group needs approval from CURB and Fred Wood, vice chancellor of Student Affairs.

The group plans to start the initiative at the UC Davis Bookstore. In the past year the bookstore used a total of 117,500 plastic bags, not including ones used for special occasions, such as graduation.

“We are currently in the process of working with these groups to try and find an alternative to plastic bags. Yet we have a dilemma,” said Charles Kratochvil, director of the bookstore. “There are people who have voiced a number of concerns toward plastic bags but there are also a number of concerns for the alternative paper bags. It is finding the right alternative that will take time and continual effort.”

Making paper bags expends a lot of energy and cuts down more trees. Additionally, the bookstore can’t only offer paper bags because they don’t hold up in the rain, Kratochvil said. The benefit, however, is being able to recycle the bags.

“Instead of completely eliminating plastic bags, we are talking about providing cheap reusable bags and encouraging students to only take a bag when necessary, or to simply use their backpacks,” he said.

The bookstore has already started to reuse bags that are left behind.

“We hope to start with a change in cashier approach on when they distribute bags,” Moosavi said. “If we can offer another option such as cheap reusable bags then the demand for plastic can decrease.”

In order to work toward sustainability, the student groups have also contacted Davis’ sustainability management.

“Our university prides itself in the success of sustainability,” said Sid England, assistant vice chancellor for Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability. “Any and all efforts, such as the reduction and eventually the elimination of single-use plastic bags, is a goal and high priority of the university if we wish to reach our zero waste-to-landfills goal by 2020.”

Hoping to show that plastic bags harm the environment, CalPIRG has issued a survey that allows participants to increase their knowledge and state their views on plastic bag distribution.

“Our first step is to educate the public about plastic bags and their effect on the environment,” said Donna Farvard, a first year neurobiology, physiology and behavioral studies major and CalPIRG’s Forest and Oceans Campaign coordinator. “We hope that by finding alternative options and eventually banning single-use plastic bags – in places such as the bookstore – that we can help make an imprint in the statewide shift that will stop a large number of pollutants from entering our oceans.”

Farvard wants to garner enough student support to present to the Davis City Council and eventually end the use of plastic bags in the city. According to CalPIRG, 39 cities and counties in California have already adopted the ban of plastic bags.

“There is no way to know whether or not the student body at large will be dissatisfied until we try,” Quinn said. “But this step forward is important. It puts UC Davis on the map as a university that wants to lead the nation in sustainable living and learning.

RACHEL LEVY can be reached at campus@theaggie.org.

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