Plastic free

March 5, 2020

It has been announced that the school is in the process of going single-use plastic free by the start of next school year, but what does that exactly entail for all of us? What’s going to change? Hopefully this article will help clear things up and let you know what life at ISL will be like next year. 

A large question on everyone’s mind is the vending machines and what they will be like next year or if there are even going to be any next year. As Mr. Cairns explains, there are alternatives to packaging such as paper bags or using jars, but there are some situations which are more difficult. For example, you can’t use jars in vending machines so there are going to be some situations where there are no alternatives to this because it’s just not possible. But there are a limited number of itemswhere there is no alternative available. He is aware and accepts that this may cause some upset within the student body. Around 80% of highschool students use the vending machine with half of those students buying four items a week on average, almost once a day. His response to this is “In any change like that what people will find is something that makes their life a bit uncomfortable…your life is going to be affected and that’s ok.” You may be wondering, “Why even make this change?” and as Mr. Cairns puts it “Schools should reflect what societies should be, not the way societies are…The school is trying to take a position on [climate change which] we think is important…There are a hundred things that we could do but we think that we should start with one thing and do it well.” The school is working to find specific alternatives for vending machines but it is unlikely that removal of these beloved machines is going to occur. 

After speaking to Mr. Romain Gibert, the cafeteria manager, he was able to give more insight into what may happen to the cafeterias and vending machines after this change. He continues to explain the alternatives that they have. For drinks that normally come in plastic bottles they would try to buy in them boxes or glass. As for the vending machine, he believes that the vending machines will have less choice in terms of snacks, such as Balisto. They will try to order what they can with different packaging fit for the vending machines but if it is not possible to put it in the vending machines with the new packaging, they plan on selling it in the cafeteria on the North campus. In other places where possible, they will use reusable containers for food such as fruits. There are few items outside of the vending machines that will be affected. Sandwiches, for example, are one of these few items which they are still in the process of finding alternatives for.

Mrs. Rebecca Chou, the vice-president of the PTA explained how this initiative will affect the PTA and events run by them. For the most part, the PTA tries hard to not use single-use plastic and only does so when the circumstances such as events at a swimming pool or lake where it is harder to take reusable cups. Most of the other plastic used during their events or meetings is reusable. In the future, it is very feasible for the events to be plastic free, all that is needed is the budgeting in of paying a higher price for reusable materials and for hired help to wash dishes used. The process of permanently adjusting budgets for each event to ensure reusable materials can be used is currently underway. Mrs. Chou’s stance on the school going single-use plastic free is clear: “I think it’s a very important initiative. For me personally and as the school I feel it’s the right direction. It just means we have to think of things in a different way and think of new solutions.”

Last school year, there was an initiative to make the school go plastic bottle free, but as we know, that didn’t happen. So what makes this time around different? Mr. Cairns believes it is because it was a student based initiative which can cause problems when a group of students is telling other students what they can or cannot do. This time around it is no longer the students leading this change. There is now a clear focus on this issue of single-use plastic and with the weight of the school behind it, the change is possible.

There are some changes behind the scenes that will be occurring too. Mainly on how the school will deal with what they buy coming in plastic such as laptops or textbooks. As for laptops, to decrease the amount of single use plastic, instead of only the DP students bringing their own laptops, it is being considered to have all highschool students bring their own laptops. As for other things the school may be buying, the school is still gathering information about where they use single-use plastic and then they will start brainstorming decisions. They are also looking to outside sources, such as other schools to see what they are doing that is working well and what they are doing that is not working. Not much will be changing in the kitchens, however, because as it stands, they do not use much single-use plastic to begin with so it will not be hard to make this change for them. The only plastic they currently use is reusable. 

So, for the time being, there are a lot of uncertainties as to how the school will be different next year. All that is certain is that the school is working their hardest to go plastic free and trying to implement the best feasible alternatives.

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