MANILA, PHILIPPINES – Youth leaders from around the world reaffirmed their commitment to a plastic-free future as Break Free From Plastic (BFFP) digitally launched the global Plastic-free Campuses program. The initiative seeks to create a worldwide network of schools and universities repudiating single-use plastic and promoting alternative systems.
The campaign has already gained serious traction with BFFP member organizations engaging over 3,200 schools and universities worldwide who have committed to curb their use of single-use plastic. In addition, more schools and universities are signing on to the BFFP Campus Resolution pledge to start putting their campuses on a plastic-free pathway.
Activist youth have a crucial role to play, not only by transforming their campuses, but by setting an example and showing their peers that a better world is possible. For youth leader Mark Paitan, from Dumaguete, in the Philippines, “we must change the narrative. We must change our perspective and go zero-waste.”
By engaging with youth leaders and students, the Plastic-free Campus program aims to create a new generation of changemakers to lead the worldwide revolt against single-use plastic, connect to the root causes of climate change, and find lasting systemic solutions.
In the United States, the University of California, Los Angeles recently announced phasing out single-use plastics in its food service, which could drive regional change as one of the largest universities nationwide to make the shift. University of California, Berkeley has also announced a very ambitious plastic-free campus ban, with the goal of eliminating single-use plastic within ten years.
In the Philippines, Silliman University has adopted a zero waste program last year which includes policies to completely ban single-use plastic in university premises. This program had the backing of university officials and students from the different colleges.
In the UK, thousands of schools have signed on to the Plastic-free schools program organized by Surfers Against Sewage. In Switzerland, the International School of Geneva has gone plastic-free and created learning modules to help schools around the world follow in its path.
“Plastic-free Campuses is a movement that sprouted from the fundamental idea that educational institutions can set the standard for institutions at large.” says BFFP’s Plastic-Free Campuses Coordinator Tiara Samson, who has worked closely with member organizations for the 2020 campaign. “Solutions implemented at the campus level can be replicated at city, state, and country levels.”
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic that has led to the suspension of classes in many parts of the world, youth leaders assert their desire and aspirations for an alternative future as embodied by the plastic-free campus program. Youth activist Alex Gordon, from Texas, USA, is “looking at this as an opportunity to make the deep systemic changes that we really need. It is really exciting that we’re in a position to make these changes.”
This global campaign is made possible thanks to the work of Break Free From Plastic member organizations PLAN: the Post-Landfill Action Network, PIRGS, Surfers Against Sewage, Gallifrey Foundation, Plastic Pollution Coalition, the 5 Gyres Institute, Fundacion el Arbol, Thanal, BFFP China, Friends of Nature China, City to Sea, China Zero Waste Alliance, and UFSC Sem Plastico.