SFU continually boasts about its commitment to environmentalism, often while citing the Zero Waste Initiative. That kind of thing sounds great on a brochure that’s handed out to naïve prospective students. But is SFU truly doing its part to cut down on waste? The answer is no.
With more than 25,000 students, a proper waste management initiative could actually make an impact on a large scale. We have compost, and plastic- and paper-recycling — but that’s it. We could take initiative and recycle batteries (pretty much every science and business student has a calculator), metals (tinfoil included), and extruded polystyrene foam — also known as styrofoam.
My main beef with our recycling system is the fact that we still have styrofoam containers on campus. Styrofoam is not only a possible human carcinogen, but it is not easily biodegradable. It lingers in landfills long after most other waste.
Zero waste plus styrofoam equals ‘does not compute.’ True, not every restaurant on campus uses foam products — but a handful do, and that can add up in a hurry. If one percent of the student population, or 250 students, buy a meal complete with styrofoam packaging every day, then over the course of the year that’s more than 90,000 foam containers heading to our landfill.
Instead of styrofoam, food vendors on campus have a wide array of recyclable and compostable take-out packaging to choose from. Eco Products®, GreenWare®, PrimeWare®, and many other manufacturers have greener options. There are paper containers and compostable plant-made plastic containers to suit any possible food-related need.
Yes, there is the concern that it could cost a couple more cents per container, but I for one would happily pay the extra nickel to avoid using styrofoam for both food and beverages. It would be great for SFU’s current vendors that don’t use compostable coffee cups to make the switch.
A second major problem we should all look into is the recycling of soft plastic. With Nester’s, Subway, and now the BC Liquor Store sharing our campus space, recycling plastic bags, plastic wrap, and other similar items would do a lot to boost our ‘Zero Waste’ reputation.
Would this mean that every current four-bin waste stop would have to grow to six bins? Not exactly. But soft plastic could be part of another recycling category, and it might be best to take away the trash option on these Zero Waste stations, as there are plenty of standalone trash cans as it is.
Will it take students three seconds longer to put their shit in the right receptacle? Probably. But three seconds of your life in order to ensure that there’s a life-sustaining planet in your future seems like a small price to pay.