The University of Strathclyde Student Association (USSA) has taken steps to join the fight against plastic pollution, and looks to ban plastic straws in its venues.
USSA stopped selling bottled water at the end of last academic year and Liam McCabe, the Vice President of Volunteering and Development, said banning plastic straws is the next step in his war against plastic. McCabe assumes not many would oppose the new policy when looking from an environmental perspective: “It is well noted that plastic has a huge impact especially on the marine life,” he said.
USSA is following a growing trend: just last month the nationwide pub chain JD Wetherspoon announced they are giving up plastic straws and Asda boss Andy Clarke stated the supermarkets should stop using plastic packaging altogether.
Winnie Courtene-Jones, marine biologist from the Scottish Association for Marine Science, said: “Plastics have benefits and the use of non ‘single-use’ items is justified. The problem is with single-use items; bags, disposable coffee cups, straws and packaging around produce that you use once and throw away.
I do not think the use of plastic is at all justified. Go back a few decades and everyone used paper straws, or just drank from their cup.”
The use of plastic has increased twenty-fold in the past 50 years and is to double again in the next 20 years. There are several more ecological options on the market, which makes the use of plastic straws unnecessary. Plastic straws are among the ten most common plastic products found on the beach cleans, despite the common belief that plastic is widely recycled.
“Different types of plastics must be separated out. For example, a green drinks bottle and a clear drinks bottle – even if they are made of the same type of plastic, they cannot be mixed together because of the colour which has been added, this means, often, the coloured plastics are simply disposed of as they have such a low economic value in terms of recycling the product”, Courtene-Jones explained.
Nationally, less than a third of the 5m tonnes of plastic used each year is recovered and recycled in Britain. Globally more than 8m tonnes of plastic flow into the oceans annually and a recent study found that billions of people worldwide are drinking water polluted by microplastics.
By Suvi Loponen