Plastic Bags No Longer Acceptable in the University's Recycling Stream

September 1, 2019

A year ago, China enacted a trash import ban on 24 varieties of waste, which brought the world into a state of environmental panic. Now, countries are not easily able to dispose of their trash like they have in the past. 

This year, China is extending the ban to 34 additional items, which includes a myriad of recyclables. The ban on these new items will be in full effect by the end of 2019. Countries impacted by this ban are experiencing increasing pressure to act with haste. The United States, in particular, is struggling to keep up with the negative impacts. Most notably, small town settings, like that of Athens, Ohio.

Recently, Athens Hocking Recycling Center has sent out an unfortunate announcement saying that it will no longer be accepting plastic bags, wraps, or films as recyclable products. Although the ban has brought unrest through Appalachia, it brings awareness to the worldly environmental crisis.

A chief recycling issue that America faces is its disposal of plastic bags. Plastic bag usage remains omnipresent across the country and bags continue to find their way into the environment. It takes anywhere from 10 to 100 years for plastic bags to decompose. The debris that fails to decompose quickly is often ingested by animals, which ultimately poisons wildlife and pollutes the water stream.

Fortunately, Ohio University has taken small initiatives in working to reduce the need for plastic. First and foremost, Shively’s Grab & Go has started placing their plastic bags behind the counter. This process makes it that customers will only receive plastic bags upon request. There is also a bag tax administered for anyone who requests a bag, hoping to discourage the usage of plastic bags.

Furthermore, reusable bags are available for purchase at the cash registers of Grab & Go. This is a good step in the right direction, but more could and should be done. The University needs to look for better sustainability alternatives, and fast. Removing plastic bags would benefit not only the environment, but the school as well.

Estimates have concluded that removing plastic bags would save Ohio University around $15,500. Everyone in the greater Athens community can start working together to build a more sustainable and green future. One way to contribute is to reuse plastic bags before throwing them out. There are many ways to reuse your plastic bags; trips to the store, messy cooking endeavors, protecting electronics in the bathroom, or creating a mini greenhouse for plants.

Also, for those who have pets, it’s a useful tool to pick up animal droppings. There is a plethora of creative ways to utilize plastic bags before throwing them out and start using reusable bags. The long-term goal is to stop using plastic bags entirely, to make the university a more sustainable and greener place to live. The trash ban is a wake-up call. This is not the time to hesitate and waver, it is the time to act.

This story was submitted by Ohio University Campus Recycling and Zero Waste