By Charles Peckman
During the first week of the semester, the checkout counter of the Iowa Hawk Shop distributes tons of school supplies in plastic bags. This is something the University of Iowa Student Government wishes to change.
UISG heard an environmentally friendly resolution at Tuesday’s meeting titled “Sustainable Bagging at Iowa Hawk Shop.” The resolution was passed unanimously.
The resolution, which was presented by Sens. Angel Alicea, Akash Bhalerao, and Greyson Zaun, aims to encourage the Hawk Shop’s transition from single-use plastic bags to reusable bags, as well as decreasing the amount of plastic used by the shop.
This will be done by presenting customers with different options while checking out. One of these options is to decline a plastic bag; to incentivize this option, the Hawk Shop will give a 5-cent donation to a worthwhile student organization. The other options will be a $1 cloth bag or the normal plastic bag.
According to the resolution, “plastic-bag consumption causes numerous negative environmental impacts, including the dispersion of toxic chemicals/carcinogens, overfilling of landfills, and land/waterway pollution that harms ecosystem functioning.”
In addition to these environmental impacts, the resolution states that only 3 to 5 percent of bags used by retailers in the United States are made of recyclable materials.
“This is a program that we want to initiate,” said Brad Bridges, the director of IMU Financial Management & Auxiliary Services. “We want to create synergy with student government and reduce plastic bags in the Hawk Shop.”
Bridges said the IMU wants to be a trendsetter in terms of plastic-bag reduction in Iowa City. According to the resolution, Iowa City is considering a ban on plastic bag use in city limits.
“The Iowa Hawk Shop’s visible location shows Iowa’s commitment to sustainability,” Zaun said.
Zaun noted that 100 billion plastic bags are used in the United States annually, and the bags can take more than 1,000 years to decompose. To Zaun, the IMU can play a small role in reducing the environmental impact of plastic bags.
“Because of the dialogue we’ve had with Mr. Bridges, we have been able to come up with a working solution,” Zaun said.
Bhalerao said the cloth bags that will be offered as an alternative to plastic bags will be sourced from an environmentally friendly and ethical textile company.
“When people go to check out, they will be presented with these options,” Bhalerao said. “This will help promote sustainability.”
Bridges attended the UISG meeting and had the opportunity to speak about the implementation of the legislation.
“The IMU has already taken many steps toward sustainability, including the purchase of biodegradable graduation gowns as opposed to your typical nylon ones,” he said.
Bridges said the Hawk Shop will also begin to deliver materials via bicycle as opposed to the vans that are customarily used.
The senators unanimously approved the resolution.
According to the resolution, the legislation “will be sent to University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld, Director of the IMU Bill Nelson, VP for Student Life Thomas Rocklin, Interim Sustainability Director Sara Maples, Director of Finance and Auxiliary Services of the IMU Bradley Bridges, and Director of Purchasing Deborah Zumbach.”