The Associated Students of Madison will discuss the Break Free From Plastics Resolution legislation tonight to push for the school to stop purchasing single-use plastic. The legislation calls for the university to slowly eliminate the purchase of unnecessary and wasteful plastic.
“The Break Free From Plastic legislation will serve as a jumping off point for UW to implement zero waste practices and kick off student advocacy efforts for plastic-free dishware in the Unions, dining halls, housing and other campus buildings,” ASM Sustainability Chair Ashley Cheung said in an interview with The Daily Cardinal.
As an educational institution, UW-Madison is responsible for teaching their students to be more aware of plastic pollution, the legislation states.
“This resolution does not change the procurement policy on campus because we as students don't have that type of power, which is why we need administration to work with students on this goal,” Cheung said.
The legislation gained widespread support from students, with 485 signatures supporting the petition to slowly stop the purchase of single-use plastic.
“In drafting this legislation, we gathered opinions from students of varying backgrounds, standings and educational paths and found the majority support eliminating single-use plastics on campus,” Wisconsin Public Interest Research Group Campus Action President Riley Gough said to the Cardinal. “It's clear that this community supports sustainability measures like this one, and this resolution solidifies that commitment.”
ASM recommends that the university finds alternatives to single-use plastics, such as glass, stainless steel, natural fiber cloth and platinum silicone. According to Cheung, a lot of the plastic products used on campus are misleading. The coffee cups at Union South say “biodegradable” on the side, but anything that breaks down over any period of time could be considered biodegradable, she said.
“We are aware that as students, our reach into decisions regarding procurement is minimal, and that it is up to administration to change what types of products are bought,” Cheung added.
The university has previously made commitments to reduce plastic waste on campus by joining the Post-Landfill Action Network, signing off on the Second Nature Resilience Commitment and creating the Zero Waste team of the Office of Sustainability.
“These are encouraging signs that the University recognizes the challenges faced by the climate crisis and is taking steps to mitigate its impact,” Gough said. “However, up to this point, the university's policy changes have been incremental at best.”
The university has cut greenhouse gas emissions by 46.6% since 2007, but there is still a lot of work to be done on campus, according to Gough.
“We need to start taking bigger steps if we are to truly address the threat that climate change poses to all of us,” Gough said. “Third-party studies like the STARS Report have shown that significant changes still need to be made, especially in air quality, buildings, dining halls and waste management.”
ASM encourages the university to join the Break Free From Plastic Global Plastic-Free Campuses Program to move toward a more sustainable future.
“We want to raise awareness and demonstrate that students not only care about this, but are willing to do what we can to make campus more sustainable,” Cheung wrote in the proposal.
ASM will introduce and debate the legislation tonight, and the committee will vote in two weeks to see if it passes.