Green Corner: Reuse utensils, don’t send them to the landfill

After celebrating Thanksgiving and enjoying home-cooked meals, students should pay attention to what they’re eating their leftovers with. We eat with plastic silverware, as they’re easy to get rid of and don’t need to be cleaned.

But has anyone ever thought about the environmental impact of those throw-away utensils and how much harm they can actually do?

The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that each year, Americans generate around 14.4 million tons of plastic, which makes up about 8 percent of the total waste that Americans discard each year. Not only does plastic take hundreds of years to decompose, but it is riddled with harmful chemicals. Those plastic forks and knives are having a bigger impact than we thought. Rider has been finding some solutions to this growing problem, though.

The Office of Sustainability has started initiatives that begin chipping away at the amount of plastic waste generated by Rider’s community.

One example is a partnership with Aramark and the Student Government Association to make plastic tableware obsolete. Not only has Daly’s Dining Hall progressed to metal, reusable options, but it also switched from disposable coffee cups to reusable mugs, thanks to Student Government Association’s Sustainability Chair Olivia Barone.

When asked his opinion of the new mugs, Eco Rep Kenny Dillon said, “I really like the mugs. I think they are very useful and eco-friendly, and a great add-on in Daly’s. I expect them to help in cutting down on the amount of waste produced.”

The next hurtle Aramark and the Office of Sustainability aimed to conquer was “greening” events hosted by Rider. Sustainability Manager, Melissa Greenberg partnered with Jena Cantwell, Aramark catering director, to obtain new, bio-degradable utensils.

People around the world are looking for solutions to plastic utensils. Narayana Peesapaty,  founder of Bakeys, a company out of India specializing in edible cutlery, has found a solution of his own. Bakeys was founded in 2011, when Peesapaty first learned about the amount of disposable utensils people in India went through every year: an estimated 120 billion pieces. So, Peesapaty came up with edible cutlery that is also nutritious. The pieces decompose within four to five days, much quicker than the hundreds of years it takes the non-edible options to. Because this option is just as inexpensive as plastic, the popularity is beginning to take off.

Tara Clancy, president of Circle K International (CKI) at Rider, hosts service events for students looking to get involved. A past event that CKI hosted was cutlery wrapping for the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen (TASK). When asked about Bakeys’ edible products, Clancy seemed intrigued, saying, “Bakeys seems like a great idea. If TASK invested in purchasing a Bakeys product, they would cut out the plastic waste produced and also give their patrons a nutritious snack with their meal. I just think it would take a little bit to convince people to invest in the purchase. Maybe TASK will be able to receive metal, reusable cutlery so they can do what Daly’s does instead.”

Rider has found some solutions to the plastic waste that students and faculty create. People like you and me can make a difference. We do not need to be inventors like Peesapaty to make a change. Just by altering our normal routine, plastic waste can greatly decrease. By investing in reusable utensils (or taking some from home over the holidays), we can do away with plastic.

—Lauren Margel

Lawrenceville Eco Rep 

 

Printed in the 11/30/16 issue.

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