Reduce Plastic Bag Use at Tulane!
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Plastic bags are something most of us use daily, usually because there isn't a better alternative. However, these common items harm life on land and in the sea. More than 400 million to 800 million plastic bags worldwide end up in landfills, breaking into toxic petroleum polymers and lasting more than a millennium until they decompose (EPA, 2014., Columbia U., 2012). 8.8 million tons of plastic enter the ocean every year, choking, drowning, or blocking the digestive tracts of marine mammals, seabirds, turtles, fish, and crustaceans(WWF, 2016, Laist, 1987).
Reducing plastic bags does more than save animals and our ecosystems. Reducing plastic saves energy. Plastic bags are made of polyethylene, distilled from petroleum oil. Americans annually use 30 billion plastic shopping bags extracted from 12 million barrels of oil(ABC News, 2007). This amount of oil can provide energy for 76 thousands Louisiana residents or 368 thousands New York state residents per year(EPA, 2015).
The good news is is that plastic is on its way out. Between 2015 and 2016, 23 states proposed 77 bills regulating plastic bags. Austin, TX banned single-use carry out bags in 2013, and California became the first state to ban single-use plastic bags in 2014 (NCSL, 2017). We propose Tulane join this humane movement by taxing 15 cents per plastic bag and using the profit to distribute reusable bags.
Specifically, we appeal to the McAlister Market and the bookstore. In these locations, free plastic bags are given with most purchases, even with one item.
This move would follow a number of sustainable initiatives implemented by Sodexo and the Barnes & Noble at Tulane. For instance, the dining team at Bruff recycles, composts, and runs the well-known OZZI reusable container program(Dining Services - Sustainability). Likewise, the bookstore team recycles and reuses cardboards, works with socially responsible vendors, and sells reusable bags. Along with these successful initiatives, we believe the entire Tulane community can benefit from plastic bag taxation.
Imposing a 15 cents tax on plastic bags and distributing reusable bags with the profit will reduce plastic bag usage. Austin temporarily experienced low efficacy after a tax on plastic bags because the low-income family was not provided with an alternative for plastic bags(NBC, 2016). The USG Sustainability Committee will strive to ensure an alternative by distributing reusable bags with in a responsible and socially conscious manner. With clear intentions and a well thought out plan, the Tulane community can become more eco-friendly with your support.
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