By Sara Reese ’16
As members of the Hamilton community, we’ve probably all ordered Dunkin Donuts coffee, thinking nothing of the Styrofoam cup that’s handed to us through the drive-thru window. And we’ve all probably been to a campus event and been served take-out food on Styrofoam plates. While the everyday consumer might not consider the type of tableware or cup that they use, the fact is, Styrofoam is harmful to the environment and also our health. As members of a renowned liberal arts university with one of the most aggressive carbon neutrality dates in higher education, the sustainability of our purchases should always be considered.
Styrofoam is identified as the fifth largest contributor to waste in the environment – occupying an estimated 30% in our nation’s landfills. Styrofoam is also non-biodegradable, meaning that it will persist in that landfill forever. An important compound in Styrofoam is Styrene, which was identified as a potential carcinogen and neurotoxin by the U.S. Environment Protection Agency (EPA) several decades ago. Additional chemicals found in Styrofoam have been known to leach into food and beverages as it is heated up in the Styrofoam tableware or cup, leading to human ingestion of these chemicals. According to EPA studies, Styrene is now found in 100 percent of the fat tissues sampled from every U.S. citizen (including children). Clearly, Styrofoam has negative impacts on our environment and our bodies.
On March 10th, the Colgate University Student Government Association unanimously passed both a resolution and a bill against Styrofoam. The bill, acting as a change to bylaws pertaining to the Budget Allocation Committee, prohibits BAC-funded student groups from using BAC-funding to purchase Styrofoam. That means when student groups host events and order pizza and drinks for pickup or delivery, there has to be explicit notice given to the vendor that Styrofoam cups or plates should not be provided. The resolution informs all Colgate departments and offices that the student body dissuades the use of Styrofoam and suggests action to reduce Styrofoam purchasing.
This bill and resolution builds momentum towards the ultimate action that should be taken – a campus-wide Styrofoam ban and ban within the town of Hamilton itself. With recyclable and biodegradable options being offered at comparable prices, Styrofoam should not be allowed. This wouldn’t be an unprecedented action – many cities, counties, and states are already banning Styrofoam, including New York City. There are also many colleges and universities that have banned Styrofoam on campus.
With Styrofoam now banned from BAC-funded events, I encourage all of us – students, staff, and faculty – to invest in reusable cups and mugs. Instead of using disposable containers, consider purchasing a reusable container or thermos that can be used over and over. Making more conscious purchasing decisions can protect our environment and our health. Let’s say goodbye to Styrofoam.