We want a plastic-free Macquarie University!

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Dear Vice-Chancellor, Professor S Bruce Dowton and Macquarie University Executive,

 Petition to Phase out single-use plastics,

In 2050, it is projected that there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish and an estimated 95% of seabirds will have ingested plastic. Plastic pollution is one of the most threatening and truly global, environmental issues today. It is estimated that there are 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic debris in the ocean. A study last year discovered that there is now no part of the ocean that does not contain plastic. One of the reasons that plastic is such a serious issue, is because plastics never really break down, but only continue to break up into smaller and smaller particles. These micro-plastics have been found in species at the bottom of the food chain, such as krill and other plankton.

The majority of single-use plastics are made from petroleum, (a non-renewable resource) but are also rarely recycled (<10% of all plastics are recycled). So not only do plastics pollute the environment when they are created but also pollute the environment when it is disposed of. Due to plastics’ small and lightweight characteristics, they often end up in waterways and ultimately, the ocean. Every year, hundreds of thousands of marine animals die each year from plastic ingestion or suffocation (e.g. from plastic being stuck around their neck to straws lodged in their nose, gills or throat). One million sea birds die from plastic ingestion each year. Latex balloons are one of the most commonly found items inside the stomach contents of seabirds, turtle and other marine mammals. In particular, latex balloons serve no material purpose beyond marketing or symbolism that in consequence, have devastating impacts on marine life. 

 Furthermore, plastic is only one threat to marine life, with many species faced with extinction due to ocean acidification, climate change and over-fishing.

Plastic pollution is also a direct threat to human health, due to its ability to travel up the food chain. Plastics are now ingested by humans in seafood and a recent study found micro-plastics in bottled water. Our very own Dr. Scott Wilson from the Department of Environmental Sciences at Macquarie University has been researching the impacts of plastics and noted at a recent national conference on the issue that toxic chemicals are released from single-use Styrofoam coffee cups when liquid reaches over 50oC.

3.5 million pieces of plastic and micro-plastic are being released into the world’s oceans EVERY SINGLE DAY;
and
NSW is the second highest per capita producer of waste in the WORLD.

Macquarie University is situated among the Lane Cove river tributaries; has a rich array of wildlife and world-leading environmental science and law programs. It is time that our university look the lead in its use of plastic and implemented steps to becoming a plastic-free campus. Single-use plastics, such as straws, have an average use of 10 minutes. Ten minutes of convenience, isn’t worth polluting the planet and putting future generations well-being at risk.

Plastic pollution is listed as a ‘key threatening process’ under NSW law and we believe that phasing out the use of plastics is directly in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Macquarie University ‘Strategic Priorities’ list ‘international presence’ and a ‘vibrant and sustainable campus’ as two key priorities. It is our view that the continued use of single-use plastics does not adhere to Macquarie University’s commitment to the principles of sustainability and fails to acknowledge the impacts of plastic pollution at a global level. Around the world, several universities have joined the ‘Plastic-free Campuses’ movement, with the University of Canberra becoming the first plastic water bottle free campus; the Queen has banned plastic straws and bottles on Royal Estates; and as recently as last week Vancouver banned plastic straws and Brisbane City Council banned plastic straws, bottles and helium balloons from events.

We urge the Vice-Chancellor and Macquarie University Executive to uphold our Strategic Priorities and commence the phase out of single-use plastics. In particular, we are calling for:

1)    immediate discontinued use of branded and unbranded balloons (and the need to source more sustainable alternatives for promotional and celebratory material). These are hazardous substances that can be replaced by other merchandise or paraphernalia.
2)    immediate ban on plastic bags
3)    commence a phase-out of plastic straws, cutlery and take-away food containers
4)    commence a sustainable café program, calling on businesses to discount drink purchases for people who supply the cup; and commence research to source more sustainable cup alternatives

It is time to turn towards more sustainable alternatives that do not cause unnecessary harm to the environment, humans and wildlife. The convenience of single-use plastic, is not worth the destruction of our only planet, so let’s make Macquarie University a leader in sustainability and take the first steps to a brighter future.



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