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ECU bottles it for the better


A student-led campaign to rid the world of single-use plastics has taken its first step at ECU, writes Ben Jones.

Professor Steve Chapman CBE and Ana Victoria Neves with some of the plastic bottles they hope will disappear from ECU’s campuses in coming years.

Australians are addicted to single-use plastics. We use about 10 million plastic straws every day and a report by Roy Morgan Australia recently found 5.3 million of us drink bottled water every week.

In 2018, a Senate inquiry into the recycling industry recommended a wholesale ban on all single-use plastics by 2023.

And thanks to students, ECU is a step ahead of most universities in the country.

WA Screen Academy student Ana Victoria Neves is the driving force behind the campaign.

Her class was challenged to only use reusable water bottles and coffee cups for the duration of their course. The challenge morphed into an idea to roll it out across ECU’s three campuses, while also making it the subject of a documentary.

“When we were discussing these documentaries for our assignments, I had already been thinking about how much more effective this whole initiative could be if we took it University-wide,” she says.

It was a campaign ECU’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Steve Chapman CBE, was more than happy to support.

From the start of semester 2 this year, ECU stopped offering single-use plastic water bottles and straws at all University events. That’s more than 40 events every year attended by tens of thousands of people.

And that’s just the start.

The University is investigating increasing the number of water fountains on campus, encouraging cafes and food outlets across campuses to offer alternatives to plastic and providing staff and students with free or discounted water bottles.

“With around 30,000 students and 1,800 staff, we can make a huge difference by taking this first step to limit single-use plastic water bottles and straws at our campus events,” Chapman says.

“This is about education and providing alternatives. By offering high-quality, convenient options to students, staff and visitors, we are confident we can reduce the demand for single-use plastic water bottles and straws on our campuses.”

For Neves, the end goal is removing all single-use plastics.

“If people were aware of the effect they have, I believe that they’d become more passionate about changing their personal habits,” she says.

“I’m very proud of how far we have got with our campaign, and in getting the university to take this on board and actually implementing it, I feel that we were very successful.”

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