The University Of California Is Taking The Lead On Phasing Out Single-Use Plastics
Speaker 1: 00:00 We produce over 300 million tons of plastic globally every year. And around 50% of that is used only once and then thrown away plastic trash remains on the planet. And in our oceans for hundreds of years, a bill by San Diego assembly member, Lorena Gonzalez, AB 10 80 would have phased out single use plastics in California by 2030, but failed to pass the state assembly this week. However, earlier this month, the university of California resolved to phase out single use plastics on their 10 campuses over the next decade here to tell us how they propose to do that is Veronica Michael's UCF student representative for Cal Pogue, which is the California public research interest group. That's a nonprofit, but lobbied for the change. Veronica, welcome to the show. Speaker 2: 00:47 Hi, so great to be here. Thank you for having me. Speaker 1: 00:50 No, it's easy to think that, you know, throwing away a few straws or plastic forks, can't be that big a deal, but remind us, why is plastic waste such as Speaker 2: 00:57 Problem? Primarily so much of this plastic ends up in our oceans where it injures and kills Marine wildlife like whales and sea turtles. Um, we're finding plastic now in the very deepest part of our ocean and the Mariana trench, but also in the remote parts of the Rocky mountains where plastic fibers have been found in the soil coming down from rain in the sky. The most shocking study that I found that really has influenced my work is on average. Um, on a weekly basis, we actually consume about a credit cards worth of plastic in microplastics. So it's not just an environmental issue, but it's definitely something that humans should be very aware of as well. Speaker 1: 01:40 Now, before we talk about the university of California's pledge, I've got a question about the bills to reduce single use plastics that failed this week in Sacramento. And you know, if they'd pass, they would've made California a national leader in phasing out single use plastics, but they did not pass. And this is the second year they failed to get enough support who who's opposing those bills. Speaker 2: 02:00 Um, primarily it, the opposition comes from the plastics industry and the fossil fuel industry that are able to still profit off of the production and sale of plastics. Of course, plastics are made as a byproduct of fossil fuels. And so it's very, very profitable for them. And historically they have opposed bills. Um, for example, the American chemistry council heavily lobbying against the California plastic grocery bag ban, which we did work to pass a few years ago. Um, and so they're still working hard to stop restrictions like this from being put in place in California and even in other States advocating that they don't take these steps forward or debt that any solutions that they put forward just aren't the right ones. It just isn't the right time to pass them. Speaker 1: 02:48 So they failed in the legislature, but you see, has resolved to take action on their 10 campuses here in California. And that's a start, what will phase out soonest and what will take longer? The Speaker 2: 03:00 Fastest thing that they're going to be phasing out is plastic bags throughout all food service on campus. But then in addition to that, um, they are working to phase out single use food where you tensiles forks knives, straws, stirs, and that'll be as soon as July of 2021. And then by July of 2022, they'll be phasing out plastic plates, cups, clamshell containers that are single use, and really primarily opting to use reusable items instead, um, as well as some locally compostable alternatives. And then the other great thing is they'll be working to phase out single use plastic beverage bottles by 2023. And the longterm goal is to phase out all non-essential single use plastics on all 10 of the UC campuses by the year 2030, if not sooner, which is also something that several of the UC campuses have opted to do is actually to speed up that timeline. Speaker 1: 03:57 Have any of the campuses come up with innovative alternatives yet? That could be an example. Speaker 2: 04:03 Yes, I'm that is actually one of the things that has been so exciting to see at the UCS is this innovation to move towards better systems. For example, UC Berkeley, there are using some exciting alternatives, for example, using deposit systems for, to go cups and containers. So say you want to go pick up your morning cup of coffee at your favorite coffee shop. Instead of getting it in a paper cup, that's lined with plastic and a plastic lid you'll instead get a raise reusable to go cup, which you can use. You can take it to go take it to work. And later on in the day, you can drop it off at any of the other coffee shops in the city that are participating and they will clean it for you though, sanitize it for you. And then the next time you go pick up a cup of coffee, you can get another reusable container. So that's one great example. UC Riverside also has a great container deposit system where instead of getting your food in plastic to go container, you'll get it in a reusable container, which you can later on, just drop off at a vending machine and that'll wash it and sanitize it again. And so it's kind of a deposit system Speaker 1: 05:13 And are UC researchers working on alternatives to plastic that would make it easier perhaps for the legislature and future to vote against plastic Speaker 2: 05:21 UC San Diego? Actually, our very own is a great example of having some professors working on alternative materials. So they actually have a group going with professor Burkhart Mayfield in Pomeroy working, um, to use algae oil, to develop alternative materials, for example, algae based, flip flops and flip flops that are usually made from byproducts of fossil fuel and plastics, um, that contribute to a lot of pollution and they're making it from algae that's biodegradable. Um, so that's one really great example, but then if you actually take all the researchers across all 10 UC campuses, we're not limited to the amount of solutions that we can come up with. Speaker 1: 06:06 We've been speaking with Veronica Michaels, who is UCF student organizer for the California public research interest group. Veronica, thanks so much for being with us. Speaker 2: 06:16 Thank you so much. Have a nice day.