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EcoReps receive grant for plastic bag reduction campaign

plastic bags

The University of Rochester has been awarded a College Council Grant for innovative environmental projects through the New York State Association for Reduction, Reuse and Recycling (NYSAR3). The $2,747 grant will be used to implement a three-part plan developed by a group of EcoReps aimed at reducing, reusing, and recycling plastic grocery bags.

University of Rochester EcoReps are 30 freshmen striving to promote change and educate their peers on the environment. Guided by two upperclass student leaders, EcoReps engage in a yearlong course combining environmental education with strategies for engagement.

EcoRep David Marshall states, “What this has proved to me is it’s really cool what you can do when you put your mind to it. Sure we’re freshman but look what we’re doing to make the world a better place.”

As a statewide leader on waste reduction, reuse, and recycling, NYSAR3 educates and trains New York State residents on improving New York’s environment. Its College Council offers a medium for colleges and universities to communicate common challenges and best practices concerning sustainable initiatives.

The University of Rochester is among four colleges and universities in New York to receive a 2016 College Council Grant. Applicants were required to submit a proposal to initiate, improve, or expand upon reduction, reuse, recycling, composting, or food waste initiatives on campus. Projects also needed to create awareness and interest among students, faculty, and staff, and involve an education component.

Under the reduction phase of the three-pronged program, Hillside Market, the main convenience store on River Campus, is implementing a 30-day trial 5% discount to those who bring a reusable bag. The EcoReps group plans to promote this program by giving away reusable bags at campus events, requiring students to sign a pledge first.

For the reuse aspect of the program, the EcoReps have collected used plastic bags which are available upon checkout at Hillside Market. Customers are first asked if using an “EcoBag” is acceptable instead of a brand new plastic grocery bag.

Following the hierarchy of the 3 R’s, the recycling aspect of the program will be the last to be implemented. Though plastic bags cannot be recycled in standard curbside collection programs, they can be sent to a third party recycler as a separate stream. Kiosks will be placed on campus to collect and ultimately recycle any excess or torn plastic bags that cannot be reused as EcoBags.

Excited for the program to take off, EcoRep Kawthar Alashoor states, “First the University of Rochester and then the world!”

Written by Darya Nicol, class of 2016

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