Over the past few months there has been a strong consumer driven movement to remove plastic straws and styrofoam from the waste stream. The University of Tennessee student senate decided to take the leap and pass a bill that would advance the campus to phase out plastic straws and styrofoam by the Spring of 2019.
We met with the two writers of the bill, Owen Flomburg and Emma Heins to ask about the inspiration behind the bill, and how it will eventually take shape on our campus.
The inspiration struck Owen when he saw that Starbucks announced to phase out single use plastic straws. Adding onto that idea, he decided to try and phase out styrofoam as well as plastic straws. He explains, “NC State and Auburn have had a lot of success phasing out styrofoam, so UT can too.”
The importance of the bill was rationalized by Emma who said that “the two products are common on UT’s campus because they are so cheap, but in reality there are many alternatives that aren’t as expensive as we think. This bill will truly give us the infrastructure change we need to reduce waste.”
The phasing out of these products will put UT at the forefront of this issue nationwide, there are only two other schools with similar bills in place: the University of Portland and Knox College. Although the benefits are great, Owen recognizes that people with disabilities “have a legitimate need to use plastic-like straws” and there will be future conversations to make sure straws are available to those who need them.
From here out, there will be a task force with representatives from all areas on campus to create the new policy. There are four additional steps that must be completed to have a new policy developed on campus, which can be found on the UT Policy Page.
If all goes to plan, the bill will be implemented Spring 2019. Congratulations to the SGA for putting together a new sustainability program!