Wolfville, NS – Acadia is taking steps to achieve its aspiration of becoming a plastic-free campus. Many initiatives to reduce single use disposable plastics, that have been shown to pollute the environment and harm wildlife, have been implemented by the University and the Acadia Students’ Union (ASU).
Water fountains with bottle refilling stations have been installed in all residences and elsewhere on campus to encourage use of reusable bottles and new installations are planned for this year. Disposable plastic water bottles were replaced with reusable bottles in student orientation Axe Packs several years ago by the ASU. Students also established disposable bottle free zones around campus as part of a campaign to raise awareness about global waste problems and water rights issues.
At the request of students, Chartwells, Acadia’s food service provider, committed to eliminating plastic straws from retail and dining hall operations. ASU food and bar services have also reduced straws in operations as part of a campaign led by several students in Environmental and Sustainability Studies.
Single-use disposable plastic bags are the most recent target for single use disposable plastic waste reduction on the campus. The Acadia Recruitment Office now provides reusable bags instead of plastic bags to prospective students visiting campus. In December 2017 the ASU implemented a $0.10 charge per plastic bag distributed in the Student Union Building to discourage use of bags. And in partnership with bookstore operator, Follet Canada, Acadia adopted a new policy eliminating distribution of single-use disposable plastic bags at retail stores and as part of regular university operations. Reusable, paper and biodegradable bags are accepted alternatives, but patrons will be encouraged to bring their own bags. The new plastic bag policy takes effect on Earth Day April 22, 2018.
The program came about because of mounting evidence and concern over plastic pollution and its impact on marine environments, wildlife and human health, both globally and locally. The United Nations warns that there will be more plastic than fish in the world’s oceans by 2050 unless people stop using single-use disposable items such as plastic bags and plastic bottles. Locally, of the almost 2.7 million kg of plastic film waste produced each year in the region, less than one third is recycled and the remainder is landfilled, with some escaping the waste management system and polluting the environment, according to Valley Waste Resource Management.
While plastic bags represent only a small portion of Acadia’s overall waste production, it still amounts to almost 9000 bags in retail operations each year. “Reducing plastic bags is a small, but significant step toward addressing the big problem of plastic waste in our society and in our environment and making our campus more sustainable,” said Jodie Noiles, Sustainability Coordinator at Acadia. “This issue is especially important to Acadia as a coastal campus since plastic bags, straws and bottles are among the most common items collected across Canada in shoreline clean-ups,” she added.
Acadia University President Dr. Peter Ricketts notes that this new policy is Acadia’s response to the recent United Nations call to action to help address this issue and aligns with the values of the institution. “Acadia is committed to reducing waste, protecting the environment and ensuring that students are educated about these important health and environmental issues,” he said.
Moving forward, the university will continue to identify ways to reduce or eliminate single use disposable plastics on campus. For example, this spring, plastic film wrap also will be discontinued in print shop operations.
The Plastic Free Campus program launch takes place March 28 at 7:00 pm in the K.C. Irving Environmental Science Centre and is open to the public. The event features a short documentary screening of THE SMOG OF THE SEA, presentation on research at Acadia by Department of Biology graduate student Rielle Hoeg, a talk and photo exhibit of marine debris called Ocean Treasures by kayak guide, Jennifer MacLatchy, a presentation by Valley Waste Resource Management followed by comments from Acadia University and the Acadia Students’ Union.
For more information about this and other sustainability programs contact the Acadia Sustainability Office or visit sustainability.acadiau.ca.
Contact: Jodie Noiles
Acadia Sustainability Office