Thu. Feb 27th, 2020

The Blue & Gray Press

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

Students conflicted on use of plastic on campus

3 min read
Day-to-day we see pieces of litter along the freeway, plastic bottles and lighters washed up on the beach, even cigarette butts - that indeed contain plastic - scattered along the walkways of our campus at Mary Washington.

Noah Strobel


Staff Writer

Could the excessive use of man-made materials come back to harm us? The world is quickly becoming careless with the use of plastic. Day-to-day we see pieces of litter along the freeway, plastic bottles and lighters washed up on the beach, even cigarette butts – that indeed contain plastic – scattered along the walkways of our campus at Mary Washington.

Humans are creatures of habit and these habits are detrimental to our health and the health of our planet, and UMW should be stepping up to promote a true eco-friendly campus.

When walking around campus, there is an evident lack of recycling trash cans and the continual free use of plastic straws and utensils, to-go containers and plastic bags all over campus. According to an article from, shoppers worldwide are using 500 billion single-use plastic bags per year and there are believed to be 46,000 individual pieces of plastic in every square mile of ocean. The oceans cover 71 percent of the Earth’s surface and contain 97 percent of the Earth’s water.

“It bothers me that we still use them. Universities are supposed to be progressive. We are full of smart people, we should know the repercussions and do something about it,” said freshman Olivia Bernsley.

The internet is flooded with hundreds of videos depicting gruesome scenes of humans having to pull plastic utensils out of the nostrils of sea turtles or even the decomposing corpses of albatross filled with hundreds of pieces of multi-colored plastic. These pictures raising awareness that if there is no action taken against the misuse of plastic products, there will be a significant change in life and nature in the years to come.

According to a statistic from PlasticsEurope, plastics production ramped up from 1.5 million tons in 1950 to approximately 322 million tons in 2015. In 2015 global plastics production grew by 3.4 percent compared to 2014. With it already being almost 2019, that percentile has already increased drastically.

Growing up in today’s day and age of excessive use of resources, our generation and those younger than us develop poor environmental habits and truly do not recognize it until adulthood.

Senior French and international affairs major Jalen Brown said, “I use [straws] because I always have and because it’s normal in society. It’s something I don’t think about very often at all even though I should since it has environmental impacts because we just throw them away instead of recycling. I’m perfectly capable of just drinking out of cups but it’s just more convenient drinking from something that hasn’t been touched rather than straight from the glass.”

While convenience is a major factor for most students, other students seemed to be concerned about the welfare of students with disabilities on campus.

Plastic utensils and straws should be readily available upon request for those who truly need them. Most restaurants use metal utensils that can be washed and reused with little to no waste or pollution. Is compensating the lessening of plastic use equivalent to the energy used to clean reusable utensils though?

Maria Dubiel, a senior majoring in French and international affairs, brought up a great point. “I think it’s complicated because if we took away all plastic utensils then what does that look like with the water and electricity usage for washing non-plastic utensils? How do you weigh that environmental problem? For straws, it’s more complicated because people who are differently abled may need them or depend on them.”

Let us hope that we can see some changes happening on campus so that we, as a university, can have a clean conscience and an environmentally-friendly footprint.

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