The Student Government Association has passed two bills calling for the ban of single-use plastic water bottles and bags on the Ithaca College campus. The intent of the bills, which were approved on Oct 13, is to promote sustainability and get students to use reusable water bottles and bags.
Ban the Bottle, an environmental organization promoting the ban of single-use water bottles, found that the United States uses approximately 50 billion water bottles per year. The U.S. International Trade Commission estimates that Americans use 102 billion single-use plastic bags every year. In 2012, only 12 percent of plastics were recycled, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Banning single-use water bottles is not impossible. If the college were to ban single-use plastic water bottles, it would follow the 34 four-year colleges and universities that have already done so, including Cornell University.
While a ban on plastic water bottles would be feasible and beneficial for the environment, a ban on plastic bags would be more difficult to implement. Unlike plastic water bottles, plastic bags are not necessarily single-use: Students often reuse plastic bags as trash bags or for storage purposes. In addition, it would be unrealistic to ban plastic bags at the college’s Bookstore, especially when customers who are not students and do not have reusable bags, such as prospective students and their families, purchase items and need a bag to carry them in.
The bill needs some revision. Instead of banning plastic bags, the college should offer paper bags and charge a small fee for plastic bags. Paper is biodegradable and only takes one month to decompose, while plastic bags take 10–20 years, according to the U.S. National Park Service. This realistic approach still contributes toward sustainability.