(Brian Yurasits / Unsplash)
Michael Van Arnam
Members of the UMass Lowell community are currently making collective efforts to stop the crisis of plastic pollution.
Innovations have been added to the campus to help individuals get involved in the effort. Screens which tells the user how many single-use bottles have been spared have been added to the top of water fountains in several of the campus’s buildings. Each dormitory has conveniently placed recycle bins, which allow residents to make eco-friendly choices. The cafeteria uses reusable drinking cups instead of single-use plastics, as well.
Perhaps the most active group UMass Lowell has to offer when it comes to the prevention of plastic pollution is the Society of Plastics Engineers.
“The Society of Plastics Engineers is an international association … that brings together thousands of people, from engineers, to designers, to material scientists, from a lot of different countries.” said David Mosato, the group’s faculty advisor. “And all these people work together in different areas to find solutions to improve plastics efficiency, to get better products, better processes, and to improve the sustainability, the impact on the environment in plastics have. So, we’re trying to combine the benefits of plastics, with the environment, making sure that we could get good sustainable products.”
The Society of Plastics Engineers is one of the key organizations in UMass Lowell’s contribution to fight against plastic pollution.
Mosato said, “We’ve been part of the Society for a long time, contributing in different ways, but mainly educating students in the area of plastics engineers, and then sending those students out to work in the industry. [They will] have an impact on both the role of plastics in our society.”
Mosato said, “It’s a great opportunity for people, young professional[s], but even people that are in the industry, to learn more about plastics and keep getting training, keep getting new information, being educated and keep promoting the good aspects of plastics engineering.”
Ending the use of single-use plastics may seem like a simple task, but it is actually a rather complex task to remove them from our society due to their convenience and our dependence on them.
“Of course, plastics are everywhere,” said Mosato. “That’s because their properties are so flexible, you can really tailor the properties of your polymer to achieve amazing results and achieve very nice product.”
Plastics are especially relevant now when it comes to helping people affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, Mosato said on the roles plastic plays in the pandemic. While doing away with single-use plastics is necessary, it does not have a simplistic solution. Instead of doing away with plastics completely, our society has to make better choices when it comes to reusing and recycling plastics.
These efforts made by the UMass Lowell community to recycle not only benefits the local community, but it also holds the potential to have a great impact on the global scale.
Former campus resident Christian DiBari said he does not think litter and plastic bottles is a problem on the campus. “I think it’s pretty clean. I don’t think I ever see any litter,” DiBari said.