The Alumni Voice Vol. 3: Not So Fantastic Plastic

Environmental responsibility in the age of contagion


Written by Caroline Wagner, Alumna

In essence, plastic is a fantastic product. It is sturdy and durable. Plastic in the medical industry has become a game changer making medical tools more sterile and robust. Nevertheless, our individual consumption of Single-Use Plastics (SUPs) is where the problem really lies. Especially now with our health pandemic these disposable plastics are on the rise again. The problem with the situation is that most people do not mindfully think about where all this garbage goes - essentially having an out-of-sight, out-of-mind mindset. So yes the pandemic is arguably forcing us to use more disposable plastics again and is prohibiting us from using reusable coffee containers at our coffee shops but that doesn’t mean we should give in to the situation and let plastic take over. I’ll outline some of the changes to think about:


Masks:

Depending on where you are located, most governments will still require a face mask at a given point. If possible, instead of using disposable face masks try to purchase a reusable cloth face mask. If medically you need a single-use mask then be mindful of how you dispose of it. Masks are already starting to appear in our oceans.


Reusable Coffee Mugs:

Some coffee chains are refusing to accept reusable coffee mugs and force the customer to purchase coffee within a disposable cup due to hygiene and contamination reasons. Increasing the number of disposables is just going to increase plastic pollution. It might be the easier option to go for that disposable cup but it has decades worth of polluting consequences. Why not make coffee the way you like it at home and take it with you instead?


Take-Away & Delivery:

The amount of plastic packaging, plastic cutlery and wrapping is enormous. The health pandemic has restaurants delivering their food as the dine-in option remains unavailable. Understandably once in a while we all want our local favourite but next time you order look at all the plastic wrapping that comes along with it. Try home cooking your favourite meal instead.


Plastic Bags:

This is the easiest swap to do. When going shopping, bring your reusable bag. It is a simple task that everyone should do.


Just because we have a health pandemic does not mean that plastic is the answer. Every time you do order delivery or dispose of a face mask, be mindful and think about what will happen to the plastic. Where will it be in one year’s time, 10 years time or 100 years time? There’s a lot going on this year and it can be overwhelming, but we must realise what happens to our waste. The Story of Plastic is a great documentary showcasing where our plastic ends up. As we are educating ourselves about zoonotic viruses and #BlackLivesMatter, we must not forget to educate ourselves about plastic and its detrimental consequences to our environment and our health.

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