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#BrandAudit2019 in Tunisia

#BrandAudit2019 in Tunisia

“This was an opportunity to be a part of change in the world. Fighting against the plastic monster has been my main focus for over ten years. Plastics are one of the biggest threats to the planet.” – Camy Mathlouthi, founder of Pour Une Tunisie Propre et Verte movement

According to this 2018 WWF report, the global cost of ocean plastic pollution is approximately $13 billion USD per year in environmental damage to marine ecosystems.  This includes financial losses incurred by fisheries and tourism, two sectors which provide many jobs in my country of Tunisia on the southern Meditteranean coast.

Today, the Meditteranean is one of the seas with the highest concentrations of plastic pollution in the world, with plastic accounting for 95% of the waste in its open sea, on its seabed and on its beaches (WWF 2018). Much of this waste washes up on our beaches in Tunisia, but this plastic comes mainly from Turkey and Spain, followed by Italy, Egypt and France (WWF 2018).  

Pour Une Tunisie Propre et Verte – “For a Clean and Green Tunisia” – is a movement trying to spread the word by engaging students and youth to be environmental stewards. We accomplished many beach cleanups, workshops and continue to work as hard as we can to reach people in all areas of Tunisia.  

Break Free From Plastic provides a real vehicle to attack this huge problem. The 2019 Brand Audit helps to accurately identify the big corporate polluters through citizen science. As environmental activists and citizens of the world, we are committed to influence these big corporate polluters to change the packaging of their products.  This is the most efficient way to reduce plastic pollution all over the world. It is our duty to our environment, for our children, and for our grandchildren.

On World Cleanup Day 2019, we conducted our own brand audit for the first time. We explained the Break Free From Plastic Brand Audit initiative to our volunteers, and all of our crew was motivated and committed to following the BFFP brand audit methodology. At the end of the clean up, people told me that they “feel so good helping our nature.”  The neighborhood locals in the neighborhood of Ezzahra (where we conducted our cleanup and brand audit) were very grateful as well, telling us “Thanks folks! Nice mission for the country and the planet!”

As a teacher, it is my personal mission to make the new generation aware of the dangers that threaten our planet. Plastics cause major damage to the Mediterranean. As a mother and grandmother, it is my responsibility to participate, protect and care about the next generation. Our Mediterranean is worth it.  

 

Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services & Community In-Power and Development Association (CIDA)

Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services & Community In-Power and Development Association (CIDA)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: THURSDAY, 11/28/19

STATEMENT ON TPC CHEMICAL DISASTER

On the morning of Wednesday, November 27, 2019, an explosion involving a processing unit was reported at TPC Group Port Neches, Texas Operations site, east of Houston and less than 10-miles from Port Arthur Texas. No official statement has disclosed the full names of chemicals or toxicants being released into the air and surrounding community during the ongoing fire. The TPC Group Plant has a total of 175 full-time employees and 50 contractors, all personnel on-site have been evacuated and 3 personnel sustained injuries, 2 personnel of TPC Group and 1 contract worker. All 3 injured personnel were taken to the medical center in Southeast Texas, and one was later transported to Memorial Herman in Houston.

 “My father was a United Steelworker who succumbed to cancer in 2016. I am well aware that symptoms from this chemical disaster may not surface for years to come. Workers’ medical needs should be covered by TPC for years to come because of known bioaccumulation of both known and unknown chemicals exposures in the body. This facility is has a history of non-compliance, which means that workers bodies absorbed the costs in health impacts. Workers are the first line of defense when these chemical disasters happen. These expenses should be covered by TPC this is the cost of having unsafe business practices, otherwise, they will continue business-as-usual.” -Ana Parras, Co-Executive Director T.e.j.a.s and former President of AFSCME, Local 3242, Corpus Christi, Texas

Incident command was established offsite at the Huntsman Administration building due to the size of fire and inability to get into the location. No immediate shelter-in-place was ordered for the surrounding community until 9:00 am, as of 6:00 pm a total of 50,000 people are under mandatory evacuation. According to the EPA Region 6 and local officials, the main chemical of concern is 1,3-Butadiene although other chemicals may be involved. 1,3-butadiene is a gas used in the production of styrene-butadiene rubber, plastics, and thermoplastic resins. This chemical is carcinogenic, meaning it’s cancer-causing and has both short and long term effects including: irritation of the eyes, nasal passages, throat and lungs, neurological effects, blurred vision, fatigue, headache, and vertigo have also been reported at very high exposure levels. Skin exposure causes a sensation of cold, followed by a burning sensation which may lead to frostbite. Thousands of peo

“We will be spending thanksgiving under shelter-in-place and evacuation orders. We are now 35 hours after the initial blast that started at 1 am yesterday morning at the TPC plant, a known violator of the Clean Air Act, it will most likely burn throughout the night. We woke up to a fiery blast the day before Thanksgiving. This is life for our communities sitting at the fence-line of the petrochemical corridor along the gulf coast. Evacuation orders have only gone out to a 4- mile radius and more than 50,000 southeast Texans have evacuated. We live in an ever-growing petrochemical corridor because of the billions of dollars being invested in petrochemical infrastructure. Not even a full week after the Trump EPA Chemical Disaster Rule rollback. A rule that would have provided common-sense prevention rules in place during catastrophic events like this TPC Disasters.”

-Hilton Kelly, CIDA Inc. Founder & Director,

Just six days ago Trump’s EPA slashed common-sense protections under the Chemical Disaster Rule that could have mitigated the harm faced by communities impacted by disasters like this one. Protections including root-cause analysis, third party inspections and improved communications with first responders and local authorities. The impacted area included several vulnerable areas including residences and schools. The school district of Port Neches-Groves has a total of 11 schools with a total of 5,131 students, 39.1% are economically disadvantaged. All 11 schools sit inside the 4 mile radius of the chemical fire this includes: Taft Elementary, Groves Elementary, West Groves Education Center, Van Buren Elementary, Groves Middle School, Ridgewood Elementary, Port Neches Elementary, Port Neches Middle School, Port Neches- Groves High School, Woodcrest Elementary, and Alternative Education Center.

“People should be spending their holiday with families, instead they have been displaced due to no fault of their own. Fortunately, schools were not in session. What if the blast occurred during school hours? How many children and teachers would have suffered? Disasters like these are preventable, it shouldn’t take a chemical explosion for local, state and agency officials to take action and realize the dangers of chemical facilities.” – Nalleli Hidalgo, Community Engagement and Education Liaison

 The TPC fire is not the first, nor last of explosive chemical disasters occurring in Texas. The frequency of chemical plant explosions are endangering workers’ lives on-site and raises concerns of public health issues for frontline communities. We are reminded of the recent fire at the ExxonMobil and the ITC facility on March 16, 2019 and March 17, 2019 in Baytown, Texas and Deer Park, Texas. All incidences found in the southeast Texas petrochemical corridor, east of Houston, Texas. We remain adamant that local, county and state officials implement a Regional Air Toxics Plan and support reinstating the Chemical Disaster Rule, which the current administration recently rolled back. We also want to urge the general public to seek legal remedies outside of the claims hotline and make a full assessment of damages including health impacts. We urge you not to come in direct contact with ash and other debris. Other considerations to keep in mind are the use of ponds, swimming pools and other open waters used for recreation, please avoid exposure to chemical ash and other debris that could have settled on these bodies of water. The same consideration should be given to ash and debris that has landed near residences, including but not limited to metal, charred material, and fire retardant foam that can potentially land on people’s residences, vehicles, and other property. If ash is located on your property avoid cutting lawns. The maintenance of lawns and other landscape can agitate any particulate matter. Instead, call local health and safety departments and take pictures and video of debris if permitted to return to your residences. If you are feeling any side effects visit your physician and maintain a record of your health. Document any symptoms including but not limited to the symptoms affiliated with 1,3-butadiene exposure. Local command stated that other chemicals may have been involved.

For these and additional concerns Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services urges residents in the area affected to evacuate and seek safety with friends and relatives further from the facility. Please remain calm and cautious of current and future road closures and weather events that may complicate the situation. Local officials have not called for a mandatory evacuation outside of the 4-mile radius but we urge those at further distances to take precautions and make decisions best for themselves and family members. Tejas also urges the surrounding municipalities and communities including but not limited to Port Arthur, Port Acres, Pear Ridge, Griffing Park, Lakeview, Central Gardens, and Viterbo, and communities in-view of the plume to take precautions and limit outdoor exposure due to unknown substances that the plume may carry. Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services is not a government agency or county entity to mandate evacuation. We are a 501(c)3 registered environmental advocacy nonprofit that seeks to educate and inform communities on the environmental issues of concern. Due to the concentration of production, storage and other sensitive materials in and around the area we remind the public to stay abreast of the situation as they are out during the day before the Thanksgiving holiday. A Red Cross shelter is being set up at Ford Park in Beaumont according to Chester Jourdan, executive director of the American Red Cross of Southeast and Deep East Texas.

 As local, state, and agency officials release statements that their data, based on handheld air monitors is safe; community members continue to sit beneath a massive plume of toxic-chemical smoke. TPC is a petrochemical facility known to have a history of air permit violations according to the Enforcement and Compliance History Online (ECHO), an EPA database. ECHO data has documented TPC as a facility with over 12 quarters of violations dating back to 2017.

“Don’t tell me that health and safety is the topmost priority for TPC a known violator of the Clean Air Act. Children, elderly, pregnant women and so many others are being exposed to cancer-causing 1,3-butadiene. We have no information on the full slate of chemicals being released or the amounts. I appreciate local officials evacuating community members and taking intentional steps to protect public well-being it is a step up from the efforts during the ITC Disaster, and yet TPCs official updates lack the detail and information that ITC handed to the affected community. What we need is for the TCEQ to stop handing out air permits like candy and for the state to lift caps on financial penalties for facilities to fully enforce the letter of the law. How does a known-violator of the law keep getting permission to operate? This is not the first time TPC undermines community well-being. Their activity is criminal and TPC should not be allowed to continue to operate. I hope the general public understands this type of production is not one based on energy demand but the production of plastic goods. This is the real cost of plastic.” – Yvette Arellano, Policy Research and Grassroots Advocate, T.e.j.a.s

Both T.e.j.a.s and CIDA release this statement jointly believing that no community should have to face a chemical disaster as everyone, regardless of race or income, is entitled to live in a clean environment.

Contact: Yvette Arellano, T.e.j.a.s Policy Research and Grassroots Advocate, 281-919-5762, arellano.inbox@gmail.com Hilton Kelley, CIDA Inc. Founder & Director, 409-498-1088, hiltonkelley5011@gmail.com

Photo from Maharlika News.

QC council approves ban on single-use plastics in hotels, restaurants

QC council approves ban on single-use plastics in hotels, restaurants

Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte on Sunday said that single-use plastics and disposable materials will soon be banned in the city’s hotels and restaurants with the approval of City Ordinance No. 2876, which prohibits the distribution and/or use of single-use plastics/disposable materials, including cutlery for dine-in purposes in these establishments.

“The use of throw-away plates, spoons, forks, cups and other plastic and paper disposables for dining purposes will soon be banned in hotels and restaurants in Quezon City,’’ Joy Belmonte said.

In a joint press conference with environmental group EcoWasteCoalition, Belmonte said the measure was long overdue as she cited principal author and Councilor Dorothy Delarmente and the other members of the city council for its approval.

“The local government of Quezon City is taking this action to prevent and reduce the generation of waste materials that are hardly recovered and recycled, and to promote sustainable practices, especially in the city’s thriving hotel and restaurant industry,” she added.

With the looming single-use plastics ban, Belmonte expressed high hopes of a significant drop in the volume of residual and plastic waste in the city once the Implementing Rules and Regulations of this ordinance are duly promulgated.

“This will be beneficial for the environment and the people as these avoidable wastes are known to add to the city’s huge waste production and to littering and flooding problems,” Belmonte pointed out.

For her part, Delarmente emphasized “the enactment of this measure and its subsequent enforcement is essential amid the clamor against throw-away materials, both plastic and paper-based, which go straight to the bin after being used for just a few minutes.”

“In this ordinance, paper alternatives for plastic cups, plates and straws are not considered an option since these are not recyclable, but disposable,” clarified Delarmente, who chairs the City Council’s Committee on Parks and Environment.

Aileen Lucero, national coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition, commended the pollution prevention ordinance against plastic and paper disposables, calling it a step in the right direction.

“This action from the ground should encourage the speedy approval of a robust national legislation phasing out single-use plastics and other disposables to advance the consumption and production agenda in the country,” Lucero pointed out.

Sonia Mendoza, chairman of the Mother Earth Foundation, also welcomed the passage of the measure saying other local government units should take their cue from Quezon City and enact similar measures “that will address the proliferation of throw-away packaging such as single-use plastics, which constitute a main obstacle in community efforts to reach the Zero Waste goal.”

Among the single-use and disposable materials not allowed for dine-in customers in the city’s hotels and restaurants are plastic spoons, forks and knives; plastic/paper cups, plates, straws, stirrers; and styrofoam.

Delarmente said hotels are further prohibited from distributing bar and liquid soaps, shampoos and conditioners, shower gels, and other items used for hygienic purposes in sachets and single-use containers.

The following penalties will be imposed on non-compliant hotels and restaurants: 1) a fine of P1,000 for the first offense; 2) a fine of P3,000 for the second offense, revocation of Environmental Clearance and issuance of a Cease and Desist Order; and 3) a fine of P5,000, revocation of Business Permit and issuance of a Closure Order.

The Environmental Protection and Waste Management Department (EPWMD) and the Business Permits and Licensing Department (BPLD) are mandated to ensure compliance of hotels and restaurants to the provisions of the Ordinance, with the Environmental Inspectors of the EPWMD tasked to issue Environmental Violation Receipts (EVRs) to violators.

Based on Quezon City’s Waste Analysis and Characterization Study (WACS) conducted in 2013, 0.81 percent of the 9.64 percent of “recyclable plastic waste” generated by the city is comprised of single-use cutlery, including plastic cups, spoons and forks, which is equivalent to 2.6 tons per day or approximately one (1) truck load of a mini-dump truck.

Originally posted in Manila Bulletin.

 

UK to take back 42 containers of plastic waste from Malaysia

UK to take back 42 containers of plastic waste from Malaysia

Kuala Lumpur, 25 November 2019 – The UK has agreed to repatriate 42 containers comprising illegal shipment of plastic waste from Malaysia, in accordance with the Basel Convention. Authorities and shipping agents are currently working
together in the repatriation process. The containers, which had arrived at Penang Port between March 2018 and March 2019, were deemed illegal as they failed to comply with the necessary import papers.

The announcement came following a recent visit by the UK’s Environment Agency (EA) organised by the British High Commission in response to news of the illegal shipment of plastic waste from the UK. The EA held a series of meetings with the Ministry of Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change (MESTECC), Department of Environment, Royal Malaysian Customs Department, relevant port authorities and agencies in Malaysia. These meetings have resulted in
a greater mutual understanding of the regulatory framework and policies related to trade in plastic waste, as well as an exchange of knowledge in sharing intelligence, inspection procedures, identification and repatriation of plastic waste.

Y.B. Yeo Bee Yin, Minister of Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change said, “The British High Commission’s proactive action of working closely with MESTECC in repatriating 42 plastic import containers in Penang Port is
highly commendable. This co-operation signifies a recognition that plastic pollution is a global issue which requires commitment from various countries to address the problem.

“We hope the co-operation and understanding between Malaysia and United Kingdom will set an example for other countries with companies exporting contaminated plastic waste to other developing nations,” she said.

H.E. Charles Hay MVO, British High Commissioner to Malaysia said, “The UK Government shares the same concerns as the Malaysian Government on the issue of plastic waste. The repatriation of these 42 containers reflects our commitment to fighting the illegal plastic waste trade.

“We look forward to working with Malaysia on the broader agenda of conserving the environment and addressing climate change, particularly with the UK becoming the joint chair of the 26th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP26) next year,” Hay added. MESTECC and the British High Commission are already collaborating on a number of initiatives in tackling plastic pollution including jointly hosting a VIP screening of BBC Studios’ Blue Planet II to raise public awareness on the perils of single-use plastics. In addition, the high commission is offering UK expertise from WRAP Global, a UK sustainability charity, to support MESTECC’s initiative in setting up the Malaysia Plastics Pact. The high commission will also be sending UK experts to deliver a venture workshop in partnership with MESTECC, to promote research and innovation in mitigating the use of plastic.

 

Contact
Raymond Chua, British High Commission +6012 3088043
Raymond.Chua@fco.gov.uk
NormaizatulAkmal Tujad, MESTECC +603 88858299
akmaltujad@mestecc.gov.my

Von Hernandez and the Battle against Plastic

Von Hernandez and the Battle against Plastic

Recently, in September 2019, Facebook announced a ban on single-use plastic bottles on its campuses worldwide. The company received widespread praise for this step, and Von Hernandez, a 2003 recipient of the Goldman Environmental Prize, hopes that it leads other corporations to follow suit and make a commitment to banning not only the use of—but also the production of—single-use plastics globally.

Hernandez received the Goldman Prize for leading a campaign in the Philippines that secured the world’s first national ban on incinerators. Incinerators create toxic waste that is then released into the air and buried in landfills, which leach into the water supply and oceans. The ash produced in the process contains heavy metals that are linked to birth defects and other severe negative health outcomes.

Von Hernandez with Richard Goldman at the 2003 Goldman Prize ceremony in San Francisco

Hernandez parlayed the visibility and support he received for winning the Prize into his next pursuit—he is now the global coordinator of Break Free From Plastic. The international organization’s goal is to drastically reduce the production of plastic pollution, which causes irreparable harm to oceans, sea and land animals, and humans. For them, the solution includes convincing individuals—and workplaces—to change consumption habits and replace plastics with reusable alternatives. They also seek to apply pressure throughout each step along the plastic supply chain, from production to disposal.

“When we created Break Free From Plastic, we agreed that to achieve our vision of a future free from plastic pollution, we needed to look at the issue in a holistic way,” Hernandez says. “This means looking at plastic at the different stages of the life-cycle, and not just treating it as a waste management or consumer responsibility issue, which is what the plastic industry wants. Looking at it that way takes the industry off the hook and allows it to continue producing even more plastics.”

Here are a few disturbing facts on plastic:[1]

  • If there are no drastic interventions, by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean.
  • Today, the world consumes an estimated five trillion plastic bags per year and only about 1% is recycled.
  • Nearly a million plastic bottles per minute are produced—about 480 million single-use plastic bottles in 2016.[2]
  • Plastic takes years to break down. The Marine Conservancy estimates that it takes 450 years to break down a plastic bottle and 400 years to break down disposable diapers.

For Hernandez, turning his attention to plastics was a natural outgrowth of his work banning waste incineration, as both are forms of hazardous waste—usually created by multinational companies in the Global North and disproportionately impacting the Global South.

Hernandez says that when large-scale awareness of the damage caused by plastics began, the onus was placed on developing countries, mainly in the Global South. However, he says, that is a false narrative. “The crisis is being driven by multinationals,” he says.

Break Free From Plastic differs from other groups fighting for a plastic ban in its focus on the entire value chain. Many people equate plastic waste—think all those plastic bottles and six-pack rings strewn on beaches—with their negative impact on oceans, but that is just one byproduct of the problem.

“I think it’s fair to say that the issue of marine litter was initially driving the agenda on plastics,” he says. “But, more and more, people are waking up to the reality that this issue is much broader than that. Plastic pollution is a public health issue. It is a climate issue. And an environmental justice issue. We need to consider the entire plastic life-cycle, from the extraction of fossil fuels, to the transformation of fossil fuel by-products into plastics by petrochemical plants, and the manufacture and consumption of various plastic products, which leads to waste disposal, including incineration of plastic that releases the most toxic substances known to science. Then there is still leakage into the environment and the ocean, where these waste plastics, along with their chemical additives, break down into microplastics, which are, in turn, ingested by fish, birds, and marine life before ending up on our dinner plates.”

The greatest culprits driving the increase in the production of plastics are the oil and gas companies together with their petrochemical industry affiliates (including ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP, and other oil and gas companies), as 99% of plastics are created from fossil fuels. [3]

Therefore, Hernandez says, the responsibility for reducing plastic waste should not lie with the individual (although he certainly encourages everyone to reduce their personal use of plastic products), or even local governments, but rather with the fossil fuel industry and the multinational corporations whose business models are heavily dependent on throw-away and disposable plastic. According to the brand audits conducted by Break Free From Plastic members around the world, consumer goods companies—like Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Unilever, Procter & Gamble, and Nestle—are among the most prolific plastic polluters across the planet.

During the organization’s brand audits, members document the plastic production and distribution by a company and publicize this information. In 2019, thousands of people conducted 700 brand audits in 84 countries[4] (the organization has created a toolkit for those who want to participate).

“We need to challenge the current narrative on plastics and hold corporations to account for their role in perpetuating this crisis,” he says. “The real solution does not lie in more recycling or better waste management; it lies in reducing the amounts of plastic being produced and deployed into our societies. We need to compel companies and retailers to significantly invest in alternative delivery systems, especially refill and reuse models, which do not rely on throwaway plastic to bring their goods to the consumer.”

Hernandez notes that “companies cannot say they are concerned about the problem and yet continue to justify their reliance on the same ‘disposable plastic’ business model. Recycling will never be enough to solve this crisis. Industry knows very well that its track record on this has been dismal, with less than 10% of plastics produced since the 1950s having been recycled.”

Break Free From Plastic also frames the problem as an environmental justice issue. Companies often locate petrochemical plants and refineries in or near poor communities—including in the United States, Hernandez says.

Governments must play a role, too, by enacting the right set of policies that place responsibility for this problem mainly onto corporations, which have been knowingly creating and instigating this crisis. Banning single-use and problematic plastics is a step in the right direction.

Hernandez also points to a wave of policy changes that resulted, at least in part, from education by and advocacy from Break Free From Plastic. Earlier this year, the European Union adopted a directive to ban single-use plastics and require corporate responsibility around the issue.[5]

Hernandez notes that the credibility and support generated from winning the Goldman Prize has been a critical factor in his ability to grow the movement. “The Prize is part of who I am,” he says. “The Prize has given me a bigger platform to work on these issues on a global, not just national, level. The Prize itself has been associated with the need to defend the rights of communities and their struggles to oppose environmental injustice, wherever that happens. For this reason, I am always honored to be carrying the badge of the Goldman Prize.”

Several other Prize winners are currently engaged in fighting plastic pollution, says Hernandez. He works with Yuyun Ismawati (2009) of Indonesia, who is leading a national coalition working to implement zero waste programs in her country. Other Prize winners who are active members of Break Free From Plastic include Prigi Arisandi (2011), also from Indonesia, Bobby Peek (1998) from South Africa, Russia’s Olga Speranskaya (2009), and Ricardo Navarro (1995) from the El Salvador.

Together with allies in the movement, Hernandez is encouraged by the impact that the movement has made, and he sees that the momentum for change on this issue is likely to escalate further.

“Just over the last three years, the narrative around plastic has started to shift. An increasing number of governments are taking action against single-use plastics and our movement itself has been experiencing phenomenal growth,” he says. “For us, these developments show that people want real, lasting, and systemic change. We are hopeful that together with other movements, we will be able to transform the system into one that is respectful of our ecological limits and the rights of communities and future generations.”

[1] https://www.breakfreefromplastic.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/Stemming-the-plastic-flood-report.pdf

[2] https://www.breakfreefromplastic.org/infographics/

[3] https://earthworks.org/issues/fracking-for-plastic/

[4] https://www.breakfreefromplastic.org/2019/09/21/break-free-from-plastic-conducts-massive-global-brand-audit-actions/

[5] https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/mar/27/the-last-straw-european-parliament-votes-to-ban-single-use-plastics

 

 

Students Succeed in Pushing Florida College to go Plastic-Free

Students Succeed in Pushing Florida College to go Plastic-Free

Young people are integral in catalyzing positive change in grassroots movements. In the effort to push for a #BreakFreeFromPlastic, college students are making big moves – and winning! Hear from one of the student organizers who recently succeeded in pushing Eckerd College in Florida to ditch single-use plastics, and learn how you can follow their lead. (Hint: brand audits help!)

In September 2018, the Post-Landfill Action Network (PLAN) together with Student PIRGs released a detailed #BreakFreeFromPlastic Campus Pledge and accompanying toolkit to support colleges and universities in transitioning toward a long-term elimination of all unnecessary single-use plastics. In just over one year, student organizers successfully pushed two U.S. campuses to sign the pledge to go plastic-free. In July 2019, College of the Atlantic in Maine became the first U.S. college to sign the pledge, committing to eliminate all single-use plastics from their campus by 2025. They were soon followed by Eckerd College, which will be the first U.S. college to enact the pledge. Starting January 2020, this Florida liberal arts college will no longer purchase most non-essential single-use plastics using college funds. 

Originally inspired by PLAN’s #BFFP campaign and seeded by Will and Alexandria, two students affiliated with Florida’s Student PIRG network, the initiative was quickly brought to Eckerd College’s Reduce Single-Use program to join forces. Over the course of many months, organizers from PLAN, Student PIRGs, and the Reduce Single-Use Project worked together to get this pledge signed. 

“This was a huge time commitment,” said Alexandria, “especially on top of school and everything that comes with being a student, but this is something I am completely dedicated to so it was absolutely worth it.” 

Her hard work paid off! Thanks to this collaboration with Florida Student PIRGs and PLAN’s #BFFP campaign, Eckerd College’s students have led the way to a comprehensive elimination of single-use plastics through academic courses, infrastructure changes, and campus-wide purchasing guidelines.

Alexandria Gordon is Eckerd College’s BFFP Campaign Coordinator, working with FLOPIRG and PLAN to push Eckerd College towards these institutional changes on campus. One of the ways she has been working on this is through brand audits! For #BreakFreeFromPlastic’s 2019 global brand audit, Eckerd students picked up and audited just under 400 pounds of waste.

“It is always so interesting and rewarding to see the biggest polluters on campus. The two biggest brands that were shocking to me were Coca-Cola and Mars… I truly believe that brand audits are a powerful way to begin making change and love being a part of that process,” Alexandria said. 

Originally from Houston, Texas, this sophomore is double majoring in Environmental Studies and Political Science. After graduation, she hopes to continue doing environmental organizing/environmental justice work – look out world!  

Inspired by Alexandria to push your college campus to go plastic-free? Great news, there are so many resources to help you get started! Break Free From Plastic just launched a brand new Plastic-Free Campuses website. Start there by signing up to join the network! You can also check out the Plastic-Free Campus Manual, developed by PLAN with support from the Plastic Pollution Coalition. PLAN’s website has a series of resources for colleges and universities such as campus toolkits, zero waste assessment frameworks, student summits, leadership trainings, and more.

And finally, some words of advice from Alexandria for other college students getting started. 

“At the beginning of this process, I definitely wish I would have known to work with, use, and trust my surroundings. This is my biggest piece of advice to other college students! There was no way I could’ve gotten this pledge signed this quickly and efficiently if I was only working by myself. Instead, I used the resources from PIRG, PLAN, and our Reduce Single Use Project (funded out of the NOAA Marine Debris Program) to push this initiative further. It helped monumentally to be involved with an organization like PIRG from the get-go, so if you have the opportunity to learn from other professionals in this area, take it! It is also so important for other college students and anyone doing this work to always remember and remind ourselves of our why. At times work like this can seem endless and maybe even impossible. For me, when times got really difficult and I was extremely stressed out and just not sure where this would go, I reminded myself of why I am doing this in the first place. That always without fail encouraged me to keep doing what I was doing, and push for the outcome I wanted. Good luck to anyone else looking to working on a similar project!”

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