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A Draining Issue: Paper straws at UT

by Lindsay Price

UT Dining Services announced during summer that the university would be removing plastic straws from its vendors. The department cited environmental concerns, stating on distributed leaflets that the policy would be enacted to have more fish in the ocean than plastic.  However, following the implementation of the alternative paper straws, they have received mixed responses from the campus population.

Some students have expressed their discontent with the straws’ tendency to deteriorate in liquid. Freshman biochemistry major  Ashley Galdamez said that she heard others griping about the transition, but did not understand the frustration until she experienced it firsthand.

“I think the straws are counterintuitive and really disappointing,” said Galdamez. “I didn’t realize how annoying it was until I actually had to use them and it was kind of disgusting.”

Others, such as sophomore Bailey Corbo, appreciate the mission behind the initiative, but also voiced concerns about the straws’ functionality.

“I like the thought of them environmentally, but actually using them is messy,” said Corbo. “They fall apart; they get gross in your mouth.”

Durability is in question, but the biodegradability of paper straws molds them into a more eco-friendly option. The public has become increasingly aware that 800 million metric tons of plastic winding up in the ocean each year, presenting hazards to aquatic life. The elimination of plastic straws is a simple start to the reduction of plastic use, as an estimated 500 million are used in the U.S. daily.

Megan Osgood, member of UT’s Student Environmental Action Coalition, is among those who view the commitment as a positive change and a hopeful indicator of future policy.

“I believe that the university finally reaching the final straw is a huge accomplishment,” said Osgood. “It is definitely a step in the right direction towards being more eco-friendly and I am very excited to see what else is to come.”

Freshman Nicholas DeVincentis said that the future benefits would outweigh short-term issues in the adjustment phase.

“Honestly, it’s good for the environment,” said DeVincentis. “I feel like people are going to bring their own straws, but it’s a green campus, so it will help out in the long run.”

Despite conflicting viewpoints on the alternative straws, few disagreed with the notion of bettering the university’s environmental impact. Sophomore Ellen Miranda suggested that the movement could garner more support if the paper straws were not inconvenient.

“I want to leave a smaller ecological footprint; however, while doing that, you still want to accommodate people’s needs,” said Miranda.

The campus Starbucks, a popular hotspot, is carrying paper straws as well, and began distributing straw-less lids with iced drinks. In July of 2018, the coffee chain announced its own plan to fully eliminate plastic straws from its stores by 2020. The movement to ban plastic straws extends to the corporate level, as Starbucks reached this decision prior to the University of Tampa.

Aside from students’ take on the straws, the policy’s implementation has demonstrated that UT is taking steps toward becoming a sustainable campus and is looking ahead to the future.

Lindsay Price can be reached at Lindsay.price@spartans.ut.edu

 

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