Plastic fantastic: SSA competes for bench

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By Emily Lauinger

lauingerem@mnstate.edu

 

The Sustainable Students Association (SSA) began a six-month-long competition to recycle as many plastic bags and as much film as possible.

The competition is held by Trex, which specializes in turning plastic bags and film into composite lumber. Last year during their 10th annual Trex Plastic Film Recycling Challenge, more than 550 schools participated nationwide. Together, they saved 252,813 pounds of plastic from ending up in landfills. They hope for a similar outcome this year.

Senior and president of SSA Laura Wessberg encourages the entire campus to jump at this opportunity. There are bins at five different locations, so students can easily drop off their plastic bags on their way to class. If they live in the halls of John Neumaier or Grantham, they don’t have to leave the safety of their dorm.

She had done the math with a fellow officer and discovered that with 5,000 students, it would only take 10 bags per person.

“It’s completely doable,” Wessberg said.

Reaching their goal is possible, but winning the grand prize of a recycled bench is not important to them. What is important is encouraging the campus and surrounding community to be sustainable.

“It’s more important that people recycle plastic bags or switch to reuseable,” Wessberg said. “We really try to focus on the community.”

Wessberg has several recommendations for how students can help the environment. She advises that students reuse things as much as possible, reevaluate their needs and maybe even become a vegetarian or vegan.

SSA will have a series of how-to events throughout the school year to help students be more sustainable and turn MSUM green.

Sophomore Carly DeSanto, the treasurer of SSA, believes that there is a long way to go with sustainability on campus, but also that there are many students and staff working to get things started. While she herself isn’t a sustainability major, she hopes that the program will grow as more students get acquainted with it. She wants students to become aware of the issue and to realize that there is plenty they can do to help the planet.

“No, you as an individual can’t stop global climate change, but you as an individual can make choices for yourself and help people around you make good, sustainable choices as well,” DeSanto said.

Competitions like these are a great way to get students involved, according to DeSanto. Not only are there fewer plastic bags in the dumpster, but it helps raise awareness about sustainable practices.

Students may see the bins around campus and think twice about using a plastic bag, or they might even decide to go to a bin location to leave their plastic bags.

It gets them thinking about the environment, which is what SSA is hoping for.

“It’s really just exposing to and reminding people that waste is an issue that isn’t going away just because we pretend like it’s not a problem,” DeSanto said.

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