On 25th October, the European Parliament voted to ban the use of “single-use” plastics, which would mean that plastic straws, disposable plastic plates and cutlery would be banned in the near future, pending the ban being incorporated into EU law. This ban will also mean that 90% of plastic bottles will be recycled by 2025, according to the Irish Times. Undoubtedly, the UN climate change report that stated we have less than 12 years to mobilize a complete conversion from fossil fuels over to green energy played a role in gathering support prior to the vote on the ban.The vote passing the ban on single-use plastic was heralded as the push the Irish government needed to take action on a national level for promoting recycling and other environmentally friendly practises.
Currently, there is only one policy concerning recycling in the most recent updated Policy Book for UCD Students’ Union. This policy was brought to forward to council by then Stage 3 Science class representative, Katie McDermott in the academic year 2015/2016. After the motion was discussed, Council mandated the Students’ Union to “back an increase in the number of general litter bins and recycling facilities throughout campus.”
Three years on and it is only now do we see a significant trial run of recycling being introduced to one part of the UCD Belfield campus, the Sutherland School of Law building. After numerous attempts and petitions from groups of students, most recently the Biological Society’s petition in April of this year that gathered just shy of 2,000 signatures, highlighting the lack of recycling and brown bins on campus, it raises the question as to why it took this long to see practical measures being carried out.
Lack of recycling facilities on campus is just part of the issue at large. Much like the “Consent is Tea” video that was shown to many incoming students during orientation week, there needs to be a greater emphasis on effective recycling and what practical steps students can take to ensure a more environmentally-friendly campus.
If the Union divert time and funds into launching more campaigns that involve students at grassroots level, it will most likely see a return from students across campus. The petitions have shown that the will is there, students just need a little more guidance from sabbatical officers who have influence and resources.
The Green Campus Committee, is chaired by Professor Michael Monaghan and run by the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE). The Committee have rightly turned their attention to achieving An Tasice’s Green Campus Flag. The project will introduce Green Information and Communications Technology (ICT) and the sub-theme of Climate Justice to students in UCD as a way to introduce the management systems as day-to-day operations.
It is unfair to say that, because the Union have received few mandates surrounding environmental sustainability, they have been sitting idly by on this issue. Earlier in October, Katie O’Dea and the UCD Green Campus created a Twitter so students and staff of UCD could receive updates and information on the work this initiative is undertaking to make the campus more environmentally-friendly. This work is being carried out in conjunction with UCD Estate Services with a goal of achieving a Green Flag by the end of 2019. This obtainable goal sets clear points for students to work towards, as a large portion would be familiar with the Green Schools programmer from first and second level education in Ireland.