The UF community continued to unload its groceries from reusable bags as California announced a plastic bag ban.
As the first state in the U.S. to officially prohibit stores from handing out free plastic shopping bags, California will put the ban into effect beginning in July 2015.
Although the act has not been brought into Florida law, student consumers are already beginning to replace plastic bags with reusable ones.
In Spring 2013, Gator Dining Services implemented a program to remove plastic bags from its 45 Aramark-managed locations on campus, according to the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education.
The on-campus Subway locations and Pollo Tropical all use paper bags instead of plastic bags.
Campus-wide initiatives are well under way to increase student and faculty “green” awareness. UF students have long been reducing their plastic waste and substituting it with reusable bags that are eco-friendly.
Raquel Ruiz, a UF industrial and systems engineering senior, said stores should begin to motivate customers to bring their own reusable bags.
“Personally, I have my own reusable bags because they are environmentally friendly, big enough so I only make one trip from my car to my house, and some of the bags are just really cute,” Ruiz, 21, said.
According to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, no local or state government may enact any regulation or tax on the use of retail bags until the Legislature adopts recommendations from the department.
UF’s Office of Sustainability is urging students to take the sustainability effort even further by using secondhand or repurposed bags from thrift stores or yard sales instead of purchasing them new.
Allison Vitt, outreach and communications coordinator at UF’s Office of Sustainability, wrote in an email that UF has prevented more than 16,000 plastic bags from entering the landfill each week.
“Most reusable totes are inexpensive, durable and can hold more items than typical grocery store plastic bags,” Vitt said.
Vitt encourages students and faculty to continue on the path of sustainability beyond banning plastic bags.