Plastic bag ban passes Senate vote 11-7 despite some protest, concern
Student Union Senate has passed a resolution calling for numerous campus businesses to replace plastic bags with paper ones.
The resolution, which was drafted by a campus initiative called Another Step Towards Sustainability, expresses Student Union’s support for the reduction of plastic bag use on campus.
Plastic bag restrictions will affect three campus organizations: Bon Appétit Management Company, which operates Paws & Go and Millbrook Market; Follett Corporation, which manages the bookstore; and the Women’s Society of Washington University, which runs Bear Necessities.
The resolution encourages each distributor to eliminate their plastic bag distribution by the 2013 fall semester and replace them with eco-friendly paper bags. The resolution itself, however, does not guarantee that these changes will be implemented.
“The Senate resolution [will] send a message that the student body’s leaders think this is an issue that we should be talking about,” said junior Jake Lyonfields, who heads the Another Step Towards Sustainability initiative.
Some opposition to the resolution has emerged on the grounds that the proposed resolution is more harmful to the environment than the current distribution of plastic bags.
During their weekly meeting Wednesday night, senators heard a presentation from senior Matthew Curtis, who argued that the resolution was neither in the best interests of the environment nor the student body.
In addition to citing studies explaining the potential detrimental effects of a plastic bag ban, Curtis called into question the validity of the plastic bag ban petition, which Another Step Towards Sustainability had used to gauge student support for the resolution.
Several other students, including senior Sophia Hirsch, also attended the Senate meeting to express their opposition to the resolution and the manner in which it was being passed.
“There [are] a lot of people who supported the ban because there was a larger, organized community surrounding it,” she said. “There were plenty of places to express your support, but there was no place to express a lack of support.”
Despite the objections, Senate eventually passed the amendment 11-7, with one senator abstaining.
Now that the resolution has been passed, it will be moved along to university administrators as well as campus distributors, who Lyonfields hopes will take further action.
“There are no free reusable bags, just like there are no free lunches,” Lyonfields said. “One of the issues is how to distribute the cost. We decided it would be more economical to have people who use the bags to pay for the paper bags.”
Speaker of the Senate, Neel Desai, acknowledged that the resolution was a borderline pass.
“It was a contentious issue, even to the end,” Desai said. “There were a few reservations, but we were able to find common ground.”
Sophomore and ArtSci Council Senator Ryan Halvorsen wrote the proposal and is one of the main sponsors of the resolution. He stressed that the ban is not as radical as many people on campus think.
“There are a lot of misconceptions about the resolution,” he said. “It is not a ban [on plastic bags]. There are many places that were exempt from the ban.”