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Students Petition University to Offer Paper Straws

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Using plastic straws seems unavoidable when they are the only options. The University at Albany’s Green Scene hopes to change that in a meeting this Wednesday with VP of Student Affairs, Michael Christakis.  

Student and sustainability blogger Grace McGrath has been leading the initiative to set up the meeting.

“My initial plan was to get rid of plastic entirely, but that’s a very hard thing to do,” said McGrath. “I think the easiest thing to start with is paper straws because there’s a very good alternative, paper straws.”

After McGrath showed up at Christakis’ office every Friday for several weeks, he decided to set up a one-on-one discussion. Both Mary Malia, UAlbany’s Director of Sustainability and Steve Pearse, Executive Director of UAlbany’s Auxiliary Services will be in attendance along with McGrath.

Pearse was hesitant to comment extensively on the matter before the meeting.

“I am not opposed to eliminating plastic straws on our campus if that is the final decision,” said Pearse. “There are many points to consider, which is why we are meeting.”

Some of those considerations include: How much is the school currently spending on straws? How much would the paper alternative cost? How long would an overhaul of all plastic straws on campus take? The latter two questions will be on the docket at next week’s meeting, while the former will have to be discussed with student dining services.

An overhaul from plastic straws to paper is not unheard of in recent years. Starbucks announced plans in July to completely phase out non-disposable straws by 2020. With 28,00 Starbucks world-wide, UAlbany’s Starbucks in Campus Center is one of the establishments that contributes to the 500 million disposable plastic straws used every day.

Though many of the stores offer customers paper straws as an alternative to plastic, the Starbucks at UAlbany does not.

A study done by For a Strawless Ocean, found that a single plastic straw can take up to 100-500 years to decompose, most of them end up in the ocean, and at some magnitude animals like sea birds and fish are constantly eating plastic. For these reasons, McGrath doesn’t seem like she’ll stop pushing for this paper straw initiative any time soon.

“If they tell me this is not possible and we cannot do it, I’m going to have to stage something, do something,” said McGrath. “Because the more students that get behind it, the more pressure it would put on the university to do something about it.”

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