ESA launches petition to eliminate plastic straws in dining halls

To reduce waste on campus, the Environmental Student Assembly, Undergraduate Student Government and environmental student organization Environmental Core launched an online petition on Monday to eliminate plastic straws in campus dining halls.

The Environmental Student Assembly, Environmental Core and Undergraduate Student Government started a petition to eliminate plastic straws in dining halls. Photo from USC Hospitality website.

At the time of publication, the petition had collected 1,009 signatures.

According to the petition, this initiative aims to reduce waste in dining halls by making all waste compostable.

“Currently, our on campus dining halls do not compost the food waste coming from student’s plates; instead, this post-consumer food is going to landfills,” the petition stated. “Plastic straws are the only item preventing all items in the dining hall from being compostable.”

According to Head of Procurement at USC Hospitality Louis Rodriguez, dining halls have been composting only pre-consumer foods, such as food scraps.

Olivia Pearson, Emily Palmer and Claire Mauss of ESA, in collaboration with USG Sustainability Advocacy Director Philine Qian and Director of the Environmental Core Tianna Shaw-Wakeman, met with USC Hospitality to propose the removal of plastic straws on Feb. 22.

Rodriguez said the removal of straws would be feasible with student support and result in less negative student feedback. According to the petition, the residential dining staff would provide plastic straws only to students with disabilities who require straws for drinking.

“Someone had shared our petition and said they could not support it because they said that we were ignoring the disabled population who may need straws,” Pearson said. “That was not our intention and we are not trying to forge the needs of any students or members of the USC community as we are trying to work toward sustainability.”

In order for the removal of plastic straws to be enacted in the 2018-19 academic year, Shaw-Wakeman emphasized the need for campus support.

“Historically, the sustainable initiatives have been started and pumped up by students,” Shaw-Wakeman said.