Cal State L.A. recently added a ban on plastic straws and carry out bags on campus, adding to the list of eco-friendly establishments around the state. As climate change and human impact on our environment is discussed more frequently, is this a change that Fullerton College should implement as well?

As of April 8, CSULA have opted out for paper alternatives. This change is in line with a California State University system policy aiming to get rid of single use plastics across all 23 Cal State campuses in California by 2023. The policy also aims to move to a zero waste policy by the year 2036.

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Plastic straws gathered near an ocean. 90 percent of floating marine debris is plastic, leading to suffocating, physically choking, or stunting marine growth and life. Photo credit: Green Peace UK

Right now, a similar plan isn’t set in the works for Fullerton College, but that doesn’t mean it could never happen.

Sodexo, who supplies materials for the Fullerton College cafeteria, sent out a PDF file in 2018 discussing how they plan on handling single-use plastics in the future. In the PDF, Sodexo stated they wanted to eliminate avoidable waste by 2025. One of the steps they’re implementing to reach that goes is a single-use plastics reduction plan.

“The Single Use Plastics Reduction Plan is merely one step in Sodexo’s global effort to reduce environmental impact, as the company will continue to research and introduce new innovations such as a reusable materials, bioplastics and organic materials in or efforts to eliminate avoidable improper waste,” stated Sodexo in the PDF file.

Sodexo also addressed the needs of disabled people who may not be able to use paper straws as easily of others.

“We will use our expertise in ensuring quality of the life services for people in hospitals, seniors, and people with food allergies to take a targeted approach that will avoid the unintended consequences that could accompany full-scale elimination,” said Sodexo.

Even if Sodexo makes the move to paper straws in lieu of plastic ones, would the students on campus be excited about the change?

Math major Jake Montaras, said that he would welcome the change to paper straws if the campus were to adopt the change, but still thinks that more could be done on campus to be more environmentally conscious.

“Last I checked, there isn’t any actual way to recycle paper in any of the classrooms or in department offices or other offices and I feel like, at least in the places that have printers, we need some sort of system or bin to be able to recycle paper in,” said Montaras.

Montaras used to work in the Office of Special Programs on Fullerton College campus. He also said that the office he worked at was one of the places where paper could be recycled on campus, but it was mainly papers that had been shredded and was recycled by the shedding service.

Ita Palma, a foreign language major, agreed with Montaras recycled paper proposal, but disagrees on paper straws.

“Paper straws are top tier worst straws. They just turn to pulp the moment it touches the water. I’d rather just drink right out of the cup or my reusable cup,” said Palma.

FC student Euridice Luna also agrees that paper straws are not the way to go. She suggests instead, metal or bamboo straws for the same environmentally friendly impact.

“Metal doesn’t alter the taste [of drinks] and are reusable, while bamboo is more eco-friendly in terms of biodegrading. Honestly I don’t see paper straws as a strong upgrade because it would still create a lot of waste that goes to our landfills. Plus, they sound unappealing to use for smoothies,” stated Luna.

Single-use plastics has become a heated topic of discussion as climate change reaches an all time high. Since plastics don’t biodegrade easily, they’re one of the main contributors to human pollution.

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50 foot long sculpture of a dead whale made out of plastic waste in the Philippines. The art instillation, made by Greenpeace Philippines was made out of 125 pounds of plastic waste that would have otherwise ended up in the ocean. Photo credit: EuroNews

According to the California Coastal Commission, almost 90 percent of marine debris is plastic. This plastic waste can lead to suffocating, physically choking, or stunting marine life and growth.

“Due to [plastic’s] durability, buoyancy and ability to accumulate and concentrate toxins present in the ocean, plastic is especially harmful to marine life,” stated the California Coastal Commission.

Fullerton College already implemented the use of hydration stations around campus to be more environmentally friendly. With these stations, students can refill their reusable water bottles with water, eliminating more plastic waste that would otherwise be accumulated by single-use plastic water bottles.

Fullerton College has no plans to eliminate straws just yet, but it may be only a matter of time before there is a call for change for a more environmentally friendly campus.

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