Across the globe, the ratio of plastics to fish in our oceans is currently 1:5 by weight, and expected to reach a staggering 1:1 by 2050.
To help address this growing issue, SEEDS and UBC’s Campus + Community Planning – Sustainability and Engineering group – partnered with graduate students Kaleigh Davis and Fiona Beaty from the Training Our Future Ocean Leaders program to better understand how UBC can be a leader in reducing its impact on the ocean.
In collaboration with UBC’s Zero Waste Action Committee and partners across campus, the team looked at the potential to recycle various plastic types, their environmental risk in ocean ecosystems, and their sources at UBC – from food outlets and research labs to the UBC Farm. Their research traced the journey of plastics when they leave UBC, from recyclers in the Lower Mainland, to manufacturers across the ocean. In addition, the team recruited a summer intern, Carolina Sánchez, to assess the marine impacts of UBC’s single-use plastics. Their results emphasized the need for UBC to prioritize reducing single-use items, and provided practical recommendations for UBC to switch from high-impact to lower-impact plastics for items that cannot be eliminated.
The research was shared through a series of presentations to the Zero Waste Action committee, to local businesses and community at consultation events, and informed UBC Food Services plans to discontinue the distribution of two forms of single-use plastics.