NJPIRG works to ban plastic bag use on campus

As part of its Sustainable U campaign, the New Jersey Public Interest Research Group aims to make the University more environmentally conscious by asking students to stop using plastic bags.

Sustainable U is an environmental campaign designed to make a cultural change in the way people view the world around them.

“We use plastic bags because that’s the only alternative, but if the culture starts to … not use plastic bags and [realize] that it’s bad, then it would actually get banned,” said Jonathan Simo, an NJPIRG intern.

Annabel Pollioni, NJPIRG campus organizer, said the campaign began as a part of a greater effort to reduce energy waste and pollutants in the ocean.

“Plastic is a waste of energy, it’s made out of petroleum product,” said Pollioni, a School of Arts and Sciences senior. “There is an island of trash floating through the ocean right now in the Pacific.”

She said people should be concerned with the pollutants in the ocean because they affect the foods we eat.

“Students should be moved to lead behind this issue because it’s a concern for everyone,” Pollioni said. “There’s actually plastic in the fish that we are consuming because there’s so much plastic in the water.”

One of the larger efforts of Sustainable U is to ban University Dining Services from using plastic bags, she said.

“They control basically everyone that gives out plastic bags on campus … so we would bring [pledges] to them and say, ‘This many students have pledged to not use plastic bags,’” Pollioni said.

Students can show support for the cause by signing the pledge to stop using plastic bags, said Simo, a School of Arts and Sciences senior.

“If you’re going to buy something small, you should say, ‘Hey, I don’t need a plastic bag,’” he said. “Once you drop that, then the culture changes.”

NJPIRG is asking local shops and University students to join the efforts of building a greener community because the United States is falling behind, Simo said.

“A lot of other countries have banned plastic bags, whereas we haven’t,” he said. “They use corn-starched bags or reusable bags, which are good alternatives.”

The first city in the nation to ban plastic bags is San Francisco, Simo said.

“We’re trying to be the first on the East Coast to get this done,” he said.

Simo said this is an issue that can be accomplished if everyone takes part.

“I think it’s something that’s very realistic. … Cities and countries have already done this and it’s something that will progress New Brunswick as a city,” he said.

In the future, NJPIRG plans to ask community residents to make a pledge to stop using plastic bags and bring the issue to the New Brunswick City Council to build an environmentally conscious community, Pollioni said.

“The City Council is actually able to decide to no longer allow plastic bags in New Brunswick,” she said. “If they’re going to uphold what they’re supposed to be doing as political advocates in this city, then they should get rid of plastic bags.”

Lizmarie Velez, a School of Arts and Sciences senior, said she went green and stopped using plastic bags for both trash cans and grocery shopping.

“I end up throwing out the plastic bags anyways, so there’s no point — might as well re-use them,” she said.

Andrew Rodriguez, a School of Arts and Sciences first-year student, said he believes that pledging to stop using plastic bags could make a difference.

“I live in California and up in San Francisco. They did it and it worked there,” he said.

Rodriguez said there are better materials we could use in our daily lives.

“Plastic is not sustainable,” he said. “It’s dirty and wasteful.”