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LETTERS: Plastic bags hurt environment; university must prioritize funds better


Editor’s note: To send a letter to the editor, please e-mail voices@cm-life.com

“Do you ever feel like a plastic bag, drifting through the wind, wanting to start again?”

Katy Perry’s metaphor in her new single “Fireworks” may be catchy but it demonstrates a problem that’s occurring all over the country, including Central’s campus: plastic bags are everywhere.

I have a been working with an Action Lead team during this semester in order to combat this plastic bag pollution. We have found that people are reliant on the convenience of plastic bags and do not think twice about their damages.

Plastic bags are made of polyethylene, an oil by-product. This means that of the hundreds of barrels of oil that the United States purchases each year, a part of that is going towards the production of plastic bags. Consequently, the United States spends over a billion dollars a year on plastic bags.

Not only are these bags exhausting valuable resources, they are damaging our environment, clogging our rivers, and destroying precious habitat for animals. Commonly described as “poison pills,” plastic bags caught in waterways emit chemicals that taint the water and are mistaken for food by animals. Globally, ecosystems are suffering.

Upon entering the CMU Bookstore, students are asked to leave their backpacks along the front wall of the store. If students bring their backpacks to the store with the intention of purchasing something, shouldn’t they be allowed to use this bag instead of a plastic one?

Take a look around campus and you’ll see that plastic bags are disposed of improperly. Whether they are caught in trees or left behind in classrooms, the proper disposal of plastic bags is essential. However, recycling is not the answer. Because plastic bags are printed with a specific ink on them, it is uneconomical to recycle them.

One ton of plastic from plastic bags costs $4,000 to process and recycle. That alone is reason enough for the US not to enforce recycling of plastic bags. The smart choice is to throw them away in regular trash receptacles.

Central is adamant on being sustainable. What I am asking is that students think twice before they accept a plastic bag at the bookstore at the end of this semester. It’s that time of the year when students are visiting the bookstore more often, purchasing books for next semester and selling back their books.

Instead of accepting the yellow CMU Bookstore bag, please say, “No, thank you.”

The bookstore sells reusable cloth bags for one dollar behind the counter. They are green in color and safe for the environment.

Sarah McNeill

Massachusetts sophomore

I read with great interest the November 10 story about the Faculty Association meeting (“Members meet to discuss university budget”).

If the $258 million figure for university reserves is accurate this represents an increase of some $30 million since the last financial report I have reviewed. It is important to note the difference between restricted and unrestricted funds.

Restricted funds are those that have strings attached — gifts to the university, state appropriations, scholarships, etc.

Unrestricted funds, however, are those the university can spend based on its own priorities.

While VP (David) Burdette is correct in saying that there isn’t “hard cash laying around for someone to claim,” he is being a bit disingenuous when he says “it’s all spoken for.” Yes, it is “spoken for” in the sense that the administration has designated it for certain budget priorities but it is not restricted to only those budget priorities.

As with your own personal budget, you make a plan for how you want to spend the money but you are not required to spend it that way. If something more important to you comes along, you shift funds internally to pay for your priorities.

There is little question about CMU’s current priorities — Senior Officers and bricks-and-mortar.

Tim Connors

Faculty Association President

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