Third level institutions should follow DCU by going single use plastic free

Cathal Mc Cahey

NO FEE PIC PIC JULIEN BEHAL PHOTOGRAPHY Dublin City University has today announced the first phase of a new sustainability drive which will see the University become ‘plastic-free’ by 2020.Pictured at the announcement in DCU was (left) Professor Brian MacCraith, President of DCU Minister for Communications, Climate Action & the Environment, Mr Denis Naughten TD and Samantha Fahy Sustainabilty Manager DCU (centre) .DCU has identified a range of single-use, disposable plastic items to be eliminated due to their detrimental impact on the environment. Implementation begins today, as part of DCU’s Green Campus Week, with plastic cups and glasses being withdrawn from all campuses with immediate effect. The initiatives are the result of common drive by the University and its Students’ Union to create a more sustainable campus environment. Takeaway coffee cups, single-use plastic takeaway containers, takeaway cutlery, straws and single-use plastic bags will be eliminated by September 2018, with plastic water and soft drink bottles completely phased out by 2020. Minister for Communications, Climate Action & the Environment, Mr Denis Naughten TD joined with the President and DCU Students’ Union to launch the plastic-free drive. Pic JULIEN BEHAL PHOTOGRAPHY MORE INFO CONTACT Gráinne Mooney DCU Communications Manager T: 01 700 8518 M: 087 227 0002 E:

Today waiting in the Starbucks line I saw that three out of the five people ahead of me were using reusable cups for their coffees. This comes less than a week after DCU launched its new sustainability policy.

A referendum carried out by the college saw 94 per cent of students voting in favour of a ban on single use plastic in DCU. Starting Paddy’s Day, DCU cafés and restaurants stopped stocking single use plastic cups and cutlery. Even this simple action of telling students that this will be our future stance as an institution has encouraged many to invest in reusable cups.

Although this may seem like a small step it carries a bigger meaning and impact. It’s no secret that those involved in college life are coffee fanatics, students and lecturers alike. Witnessing three out of five customers use reusable cups when two weeks ago five out of five wouldn’t have is encouraging.

The impact of the majority using reusable cups in third level institutions would be astonishing no doubt. Two million disposable coffee cups were sent to landfill sites each day, the Irish Times reported last November.

In 2017, the CSO reported that there were 181,039 students enrolled in full time third level education in Ireland. While it would be incorrect to assume that each student buys one coffee per day, it is interesting to pretend so to put it into perspective. If we were to assume this, then college students are responsible for almost one tenth of the daily coffee waste.

Taking steps towards a greener college is simply a must. It’s not as if there’s some form of ‘green activism’ going on, DCU are simply implementing a sustainability policy. Sustainability is about maintaining a rate at which there is a balance. Other third level institutions need to take it to their students in the same way DCU has.

DCU aims to become the first ‘plastic free’ Irish university, announcing a sustainability drive to achieve this goal by 2020 last week. We should be proud as an institution to be the first to step up and accept our social responsibility and in doing so, should encourage and support other third level institutions who are looking to accept theirs.

Third level institutions take pride in the fact they are at the forefront of social movements, each proud of those who enter their institution bare and leave with academic achievements. Proud of their students who learn academically but also as a person. Taking a greener stance and banning single use plastic is the next movement our third level institutions need to back, one we’re proud to say we’ve started.

Cathal McCahey

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