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College Plastic Consumption

Destroying the World’s Oceans: How Students Can Re-sell or Re-use to Minimize Damage

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The world is currently facing a major crisis with its plastic consumption. Our way of consumption has a big impact on the oceans and it is getting worse. Plastic is one of the cheapest, most durable, and easiest material to mold that we currently have access to as humans but it comes at a substantial environmental cost. It finds different paths to the ocean, where it’s either eaten or entangles wildlife. A total of almost 78 million tons of plastic flow into the ocean every single year; this would be the same as pouring a garbage truck of plastic directly into the ocean every minute [1]. How do college students contribute to this problem?

It is estimated that the average American college student consumes approximately 220 pounds (100 kilograms) of plastic each year, the majority of which is single use plastic packaging of different sorts [2]. Whether it is students jogging with a plastic water bottle in hand, sipping latte during lectures, or using plastic bags for groceries, annually these consumption habits translate to approximately 152 water bottles, 76 Styrofoam coffee cups, and 304 plastic bags, per student [3]. This might not seem much for some but as a whole, it is estimated that American college students use over 3 billion plastic water bottles, 1.5 billion coffee cups, and 6 billion plastic bags, every single year.

Based on how waste is disposed today, a lot of this plastic ends up in the oceans. Maybe it’s time for students to get reusable metal water bottles, bring their own coffee mug, and have a durable bag for their groceries.

The plastics that students consume not only impacts their lifetimes but also for many generations to come.

Foamed plastic cups will stay in the oceans for 50 years, whereas a plastic bottle will stay for 450 years [4].

Plastic pollution harms the ocean wildlife on a massive scale. The pollution kills more than 2.4 million animals each year [5]. Over 90% of all seabirds have plastic in their stomach and over a million birds die each year [6]. This effect might be something worth paying attention to for humans as well. It is estimated that the average person will eat 70,000 pieces of microplastic each year [7]. Maybe your next Filet-o-Fish, tuna salad, spicy salmon rolls, or guacamole tuna poke bowl contain microplastic? Remember those lululemon yoga pants, or your dry fit shorts? They might contain microfibers. Over 100,000 mammals die each year from microfibers in the ocean [8].

Fortunately, not all is lost yet. A lot of these consumption behaviors can be changed and the battle against plastic can be won. One of the solutions is to buy locally second hand. Student can take the first step towards eco-friendlier consumption habits. The Mijem app allows college students buy, sell, ride with other college students. Mijem encourages re-sell and re-use of products. Together, students on campus may not only save money and earn cash but prevent further plastic waste ending up in the oceans.