Pacific Approves Styrofoam Ban
Over the past year, a team of students from the Center for a Sustainable Society (CSS) have worked to pass a blanket no-purchase policy on expanded polystyrene, more commonly known as Styrofoam, food containers. On May 7, the University Council voted to approve and implement the new policy across all Pacific University campuses. Our purpose is to prohibit all Pacific University affiliated programs and groups from purchasing, selling, using, or offering Styrofoam food containers. Primary alternatives for events where concessions are sold should be containers, cups, and dishware made from PCW (post-consumer waste); meaning that new resources were not exploited for single use items. This is a critical step to reduce our footprint, as we don’t yet have dishware or containers that are compatible with our composting service in our region. Many low-cost alternative options are available, and the transition will be supported by a phase-in period to use up the remaining stock of Styrofoam products, which ends July 1, 2021.
Styrofoam has negative social and environmental impacts throughout its lifecycle. As a petroleum based product, its manufacture contributes to greenhouse gas emissions and proximal air pollution. As a used product it is almost impossible to recycle, and its residence time in landfills lasts hundreds of years. Commonly Styrofoam ends up as litter, impacting terrestrial and marine wildlife who mistake it for food, and contributing to phenomena like the Great Pacific Garbage patch– a miasma of floating plastic in our oceans. In communities that practice waste incineration, expanded polystyrene can be a top contributor to hazardous waste, as it releases toxic chemicals styrene and benzene when exposed to heat, acid, and alcohol (Ahmad & Bajahlan 2007).
Sustainability and justice are core parts of Pacific’s mission statement. Our vision for 2020 reads in part, “We will incorporate sustainability into all of our endeavors.” Staying true to these statements means that we must pursue all kinds of justice, including environmental justice, which means fair access to environmental rights and resources and fair impact of environmental hazards and regulations. Transitioning to less harmful materials is a way to integrate environmental justice and sustainability into our institution, ensuring that our operational standards meet our educational objectives. “A ban on Styrofoam puts Pacific University in league with other leading institutions, and on a larger scale, governments that are taking action to solve these problems we face, instead of just speaking words,” said Carrie Malone ’20 with the Center for a Sustainable Society. “For example, Portland, Seattle, New York City, Washington DC, and Maui County all have similar bans in place. Please join us in celebrating this achievement.” Malone is also CSS’s a Student Senate Representative.