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Single-use plastics, or disposable plastics, are used only once before they are thrown away. These items are things like plastic bags, take-away cups, coffee stirrers, soda and water bottles, and most food packaging. Globally, we produce roughly 300 million tons of plastic each year and half of it is disposable! World-wide only 10 to 13 percent of plastic items are recycled. Petroleum-based plastic is not biodegradable and usually goes into a landfill where it is buried or it gets into the water and finds its way into the ocean. Although plastic will not biodegrade (decompose into a natural substance like soil,) it will degrade (break down) into tiny particles, so called microplastics. In the process of breaking down, it releases toxic chemicals (additives that were used to shape and harden the plastic), which make their way into our food and water supply.
AUS is committed to creating a campus that meets the high standards of environmental sustainability, and sets a standard for environmental sustainability that other organizations can follow. AUS acknowledges the enormous environmental cost of petroleum-based single-use plastics, and the pervasive negative impact these materials have at a local, regional and global level. Minimizing single-use plastics on campus, wherever practical, is an important way in which AUS can significantly reduce its waste contribution and improve its environmental credentials. AUS hopes that the single-use plastics campaign will encourage students and other AUS stakeholders to adopt similar environmentally friendly practices in all aspects of their lives, now and in the future.
The UAE produces hundreds of thousands of tons of waste every day, most of which cannot be recycled. Of all the household waste we produce, more than 90 percent ends up in the landfill. It’s obvious that in order to make a change we need to focus on eliminating waste in our everyday lives, not just rely on recycling (which in itself requires significant resources). Eliminating and substituting single-use plastics will significantly reduce AUS’ waste contribution.
AUS acknowledges that minimizing single-use plastic can be challenging for all stakeholders. AUS Sustainability has been working with on-campus food and beverage outlets to reduce the amount of plastic packaging in their products and replace petroleum-based plastics with biodegradable alternatives where possible. In addition, a comprehensive on-campus awareness and engagement campaign was rolled out to make stakeholders aware of the detrimental environmental impact of single-use plastics and encourage them to get on board; this includes providing free stainless steel drink bottles to students, faculty and staff and increasing the number of water dispensers available on campus.
Here are four suggestions that can help you make a real impact and get you a step closer to living a zero-waste lifestyle:
1. Start bringing a reusable water bottle to campus. There are water dispensers in every academic building, including the library, where you can refill your reusable water bottles for free.
2. Stop drinking coffee/tea in take away cups. You can either opt for ceramic cups provided in each coffee shop or bring your own reusable container to have your coffee/tea on the go.
3. Stop using plastic shopping bags. Try bringing your own reusable bag instead.
4. Avoid take-away food. Instead, you can dine in the restaurant where they will provide you with a ceramic plate and metal cutlery that can be washed and re-used.