It all started with a turtle.
I’m sure you remember the video of a crew of volunteers who pulled a sea turtle out of the ocean and discovered a plastic disposable straw stuck in its nose. The video went viral and sparked global outrage – quickly businesses, communities, and cities began using paper straws and working to ban the single-use plastic straw.
That same year, University of Kentucky Sustainability, Dining and Recycling teamed up to figure out what we could here on campus to address the plastic waste crisis – thus began one of our flagship campaigns, UK POPs (Passes on [single-use] Plastic.) The campaign’s goal was to reduce the use of certain types of single-use plastic items – bags, bottles, and straws – by encouraging reuse and the development of new habits.
Students were asked to complete a survey so that we could determine what types of reusable items students were already using and how often. At the end of the survey, students were asked to pledge to reduce their single-use plastic consumption by using alternatives or simply refusing the item. Upon completion of the survey, students received a reusable cotton bag, metal straw, and stainless steel water bottle.
Over 1,800 students took the survey and made the pledge to reduce their single-use plastic consumption. And through it we learned so much!
- 51% of students used reusable water bottles multiple times a day
- 68% of students had never used a reusable straw
- 45% of students had never used a reusable bag
While the POPs survey and giveaway campaign was in the forefront of messaging in 2018, it has lived on in the offices of UK Sustainability, Dining, and Recycling. We have continued to further our efforts to pass on plastics with large scale projects over the past three years, such as introducing recyclable aluminum cups to events, increasing our reusable to-go container usage at UK Dining halls, and only giving straws upon request at our on-campus Starbucks locations.
There’s still more work to be done and we all play an important part. Keep an eye out for ways you can refuse single-use plastics (saying ‘no thanks’ to a straw at a restaurant), reuse bottles and to-go containers, and learn what is recyclable here on campus by following us on social media and signing up for the Wholesum newsletter!