College bans plastic bags on campus following city ordinance

The college stopped distributing plastic bags on campus after a city ordinance went into effect on Dec. 14.

The ordinance requires establishments to give out reusable, recyclable, or compostable bags and charge at least 5 cents for them. Recyclable paper bags replaced plastic ones at on-campus stores on Dec. 14, according to Vice President and Dean for Campus Life James Hoppe.

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said he supported the ordinance to reduce plastic in the environment and litter in the city, according to reporting from the Boston Globe.

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Hoppe said students would see a difference at Barnes & Noble at Emerson College, the Textbook Annex, and the C-Store at the Max Cafe—the only locations on-campus that gave out plastic bags.

A sign posted on the door of the Textbook Annex notifies students they will be charged 10 cents for a paper bag but the C-Store is not charging for bags

“We want to practice what we preach. We say [sustainability is] one of our values and we need to put it into action,” Hoppe said. “We hope it’s going to be a fairly easy transition.”

Residence Director of 2 Boylston Place Desiree Bradford created a take-one-leave-one reusable bag program for the dorm building to make the ban easier on students. She placed a container full of reusable bags in the 2 Boylston Place lobby with an informational poster about the new city ban. Anyone can take a bag if they are going out shopping then return it when they come back.

Bradford said she wanted to help students who might need to adjust to bringing an extra item with them while shopping.

“I think Emerson students are mostly positive about sustainability. All of the complaints I’ve heard have been about the charge for a bag,” Bradford said.

Assistant Dean of Campus Life Elizabeth Ching-Bush initiated a broader program in collaboration with Bradford to make reusable shopping bags available for students to borrow across campus. Ching-Bush said she collaborated with the Office of Intercultural Student Affairs, Student Engagement and Leadership, and Off-Campus Student Services.

The college is in negotiations with a manufacturer to purchase a large quantity of reusable bags, but the cost is still uncertain, according to Ching-Bush.

Ching-Bush said the college is still deciding how to distribute the bags to students. Possible options include residence assistants going door-to-door in residence halls to hand out bags, or leaving boxes around campus for students to pick up bags.

“We would like them to be accessible in multiple ways so a student doesn’t have to worry about going to a store and paying for a bag,” Ching-Bush said. “It’s a small fee that adds up for a student.”

Ching-Bush said the plastic bag ban will help students shift their shopping habits and make them more mindful of their material possessions and how they affect the environment.

“As more and more cities are trying to be sustainable, it’ll just be much easier for students to already have reusable bags and already have those habits,” she said.

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