SFU to reduce single-use plastics and products

August 13, 2019
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Starting in September, Simon Fraser University will demonstrate its commitment to zero-waste solutions by acting to reduce and eliminate single-use plastics and products (SUPPs) across all three campuses.

The “Re-use for Good” initiative is a multi-phase action plan to raise awareness and work towards eliminating the most common SUPPs at SFU. The initiative grew out of a task force of student, staff and faculty change-makers. Led by the SFU Sustainability Office and Ancillary Servicesthe task force includes  the Simon Fraser Student Society (SFSS), the Graduate Student Society (GSS) and Ban the Bottle student club. Input from the Centre for Accessible Learning and engagement with student accessibility groups will ensure that specific needs are met. A further project goal is to involve students in experiential learning through class research and case studies.   

"It’s admirable to see a big university working collaboratively to reduce its impact on our environment,” says task force member Julian Loutsik, SFSS’ environment representative. “SFU’s commitment to eliminating common single-use plastics and products is a huge step toward helping our environment, and this leadership will encourage other institutions to follow."

Phase 1 of the SUPPs action plan this fall includes:

1. Adding reusable water bottles to campus vending machines

2. Mapping the location of existing water bottle refill stations and deciding where to strategically locate additional stations on campus.

3. Dining Services will:

    a) Replace plastic and compostable utensils and stir sticks with metal flatware

    b) Remove plastic straws, unless plastic bendable straws are needed for accessibility

    c) Launch a reusable container program in Mackenzie Café

4. Meeting, Event, and Conference Services (MECS) will:
    a) Replace plastic water bottles with reusable water jugs

    b) Replace plastic juice and pop bottles with aluminum cans

    c) Replace wooden stir sticks with metal spoons

    d) Replace plastic creamers and milkers with reusable serving jugs

5. Other initiatives across the university include:

    a) Eliminating plastic and paper bags at the SFU Bookstore and Spirit Shops, and introducing $1 reusable canvas bags upon request

    b) Replacing single-use plastic signage with cardboard signage, and eliminating plastic shrink-wrap at Document Solutions

Phase 2 of the project, slated for 2020, will address plastic water and pop bottles, single-use beverage cups and single-use coffee pods.

The negative impacts of SUPPs are far-reaching and significant. They litter public spaces, harm marine environments, and clog landfills. Fossil fuels are burned at nearly every stage of the plastics life-cycle, exacerbating climate change. Yet only 11 per cent of these plastics are recycled in Canada.

“This project is the next step in our zero-waste initiative and journey to the circular economy,” says Kayla Blok, manager of Campus Sustainability. “Through collaboration across multiple departments and with student leadership and external partners, we are raising awareness at SFU and starting to tackle this issue.”.

Interested in getting involved?  The task force is looking for campus input as well as volunteers. Fill out this surveyto provide feedback or offer assistance.

As part of this initiative, all SFU faculties and departments are invited to identify single-use plastics and products in their areas and to find reusable alternatives where possible.

This story originally appeared in SFU News.