American University of Sharjah bans single-use plastic on campus


Starting January 2020, all vendors on the AUS campus will be banned from selling plastic water containers holding less than 500 millimetres of water.

The American University of Sharjah (AUS) has announced plans to tackle plastic and Styrofoam waste, and is set to become the first university in the UAE to ban single-use plastic on campus. University students have called the initiative ‘an excellent move’.

Starting January 2020, all vendors on the AUS campus will be banned from selling plastic water containers holding less than 500 millimetres of water. Juice and soda drinks will be required to be sold in aluminium containers, according to an official statement issued by the University media team on September 30.

“In addition, single-use plastic bags and eating utensils – such as takeaway containers, straws, plates, cups and cutlery – will also be prohibited; they will be replaced with environmentally friendly plant-based and biodegradable alternatives,” added the statement.

“The initiative is led by AUS’ Sustainability Office and aims to eliminate the need for single-use plastic and Styrofoam, while providing the AUS community with access to free, high-quality drinking water,” it said.

Rose Armour, director of the AUS Sustainability Office, said eliminating single-use plastics is an important step towards reducing landfill in the UAE. “Per capita, the UAE has some of the highest rates of waste generation in the world. A typical UAE resident uses 450 plastic water bottles on an average in a single year. There is an enormous amount of plastic entering landfill sites – 77 per cent of all waste ending up in a landfill – impacting the environment for thousands of years to come,” she said.

Armour added: “At the same time, we understand how important it is in an arid environment for our staff, students and faculty to consume lots of water. We have therefore developed a strategy that ensures our community stays well-hydrated, but with minimal impact on the environment.”

Free stainless-steel water bottles to students

To simplify the transition, the university will be distributing free double-wall insulated, stainless steel drinking bottles to all AUS staff, students and faculty. The bottles can be filled, at no cost, at the university’s many water stations.

Furthermore, in the AUS Library, new technology is being utilised to collect and dispense atmospheric water; atmospheric water generators draw humidity from the air, turning it into pure drinking water, free of chemicals, bacteria and heavy metals.

Karen Pinto, a former student of the university’s College of Arts and Sciences, said: “I think this is an exceptional move, and a much-needed one. I hope other organisations and universities follow the same steps as well.”

Another student Mohammed Fahad, a student from the school of business administration, said: “Students tend to use enormous amounts of plastic in the form of beverage bottles, food wrappers, and sometimes plastic waste from research work, etc. Ban of single-use plastic is definitely a way forward.”

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