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SFU community rallies to reduce impact on environment by purging plastics

April 04, 2022
Photo by Leah Gair.

The move away from single-use plastics at SFU—now into its third year—continues to ramp up on all three campuses. Since moving in 2020 to eliminate the sale of more than 260,000 individual-use plastic water bottles annually, other than for accessibility purposes, SFU has since eliminated the sale of all other plastic bottle beverages.

That means at SFU, there are no longer water, juice or soft drinks sold in plastic bottles, and this includes franchise locations such as Starbucks, Tim Hortons, and Subway, and within the recently-opened Blenz Coffee and INS Market convenience store in the Student Union Building.

In 2021, all beverages in plastic bottles were eliminated from dining and vending areas. Meanwhile, initiatives such as the student-led Ban the Bottle SFU and Reuse For Good, which had representation from students, staff and campus partners, were instrumental in the move to purge plastics. Additionally, SFU’s Disability and Neurodiversity Alliance played a key role in ensuring efforts to reduce the use of single-use plastics—these efforts were carried out through the framework of climate justice and inclusivity. There are now 170 water bottle refill stations across our campuses in a bid to introduce more sustainable practices.

Photo by Leah Gair.

The results align with the recent announcement of the United Nations’ Environment Assembly’s global plastics pollution treaty. The new, legally binding agreement was created to stem the mounting plastics epidemic, from the world’s oceans to its mountaintops.

Through the efforts of the Re-use for Good initiative, more than 57 kg of plastics waste is eliminated annually, which lowers SFU’s carbon footprint by more than 2.75 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide per year—the equivalent of charging 350,000 smartphones.

“We all want to do the right thing, and student leadership is vital to sparking change,” says Mireta Strandberg-Salmon, founder of SFU’s Ban the Bottle. “Our success is the result of collaborating with other student groups and with SFU decision-makers to achieve our goal.

“It’s not just about bottled water at one school. It’s about mobilizing change by engaging students, raising awareness and moving the needle on what is possible.”

Mireta Strandberg-Salmon, founder of SFU’s Ban the Bottle.

Students are passionate about their future and causes such as climate change, fair trade and the need for a zero-waste campus, and their determination to find solutions is having a powerful impact, says Mark McLaughlin, SFU’s chief commercial services officer. “Engaging with students and their ideas has been key to making the progress we’re seeing today.”

Learn more about our leadership in sustainability and how to get involved on the SFU Sustainability website.