A Growing Concern: Single-Use Products on Campus

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By: Michael Aaron Coopersmith | mcoopersmith@radford.edu

A fear that I didn’t have before I started to care for the world around me is that dark eternal clouds would litter the sky, and murky waters would engulf the coast.

My imagination seems to be limited to mainstream pollution effects. 

Pollution doesn’t just come out of smokestacks or get dumped into a river from some random sewer pipe. According to the Oxford Dictionary, “pollution is the presence in or introduction into the environment of a substance or thing that has harmful or poisonous effects.”

I feel disgusted by how much commercial pollution dominates the Radford University campus.

Several one-use products are coming from chain-restaurants, including bags, wrappers, plastic, cardboard tins, plastic cups, and disposable utensils. On any given day during the week, one could look into any trashcan and find them stuffed full of Wendy’s bags.

If you look at these one-use products abstractly, it might seem baffling that we, as customers, are buying a product and having to dispose of it ourselves, practically doing the government’s work for them.

Most restaurants on campus are using single-use products excessively. A good portion of them being chain restaurants such as Wendy’s, Chick-fil-A, and Papa John’s Pizza.

When looking at the trash profile of each restaurant, Wendy’s uses an outrageous amount of single-use products. When ordering a combo, you are given a paper cup (to which you have the option to get a lid and straw), bag, wrapper, and fry holder. For anyone that has been at a popular fast food restaurant during peak times, you can assume that things will be pretty busy and that each customer is purchasing this assortment of waste to then dispose of after consuming their meal. It’s just a ludicrous amount of waste that they’re giving to a single customer.

With another profile, let’s look at Chick-fil-A and Papa John’s Pizza. I’m putting these two fast-food restaurants together because they hold the same problem with single-use products. The packaging of their condiments is another pollutant that adds to the adversity of a cleaner environment. These condiments come in plastic waste containers. People will get them and then throw it in the trash since the packaging cannot be recycled with sauce on it. It almost feels like these companies know their consumers won’t recycle their products properly.

All this waste that we buy and then dispose of is something that baffles me. But, looking at the whole situation realistically, we, as students, are trapped in this.

Even if we restrain from grabbing a lid for our drink or a bag to carry our food in, we are continuing to buy their products and support this behavior. But, we would then have to rely on other restaurants that don’t produce single-use products.

Wendy’s, Chick-fil-A, and Papa John’s Pizza may have been the subject of this article, but other on-campus restaurants also take part in single-use production. Hissho Sushi uses plastic containers for everything, and Au Bon Pain uses paper containers.

We are trapped in this, yet we built it and continue the growth of these practices. We literally made this problem.  

Read other opinion articles on The Tartan, including The Search for the Perfect Porcelain Pot Across Radford.

Photo Credit: (Carly Sumpter | The Tartan)

Featured Image: Liam Harrelson showing off his dinner