“We’re Turning into Plastic!”

Next time you are in South Hall, take a look at the giant plastic whale in the lobby. It is cute, whimsical and fun. But there is an important message as well.

“The point is to let everyone know how much single-use plastic we are using on our campus,” said Claire Condie of the Natural Sciences Department and the advisor to the Earth Science Club. “Our oceans are filling up with single-use plastics, which can be deadly to marine life.”

Dr. Condie said that when scientists have autopsied dead whales that have washed up on the shore, they’ve discovered some of their abdomens are filled with plastic and the plastic is the cause of death.

The whale was designed by MCC students Justine Burnett and Taryn Hansen as a Service Learning Project developed by Dr. Condie after the students were surprised at how much plastic they had cleaned up off the beach during the Clean Ocean Action Beach Sweeps. Over the course of the school year students registered in Dr. Condie’s Earth Science class volunteered to help with the construction of the plastic whale to symbolize the impact that plastic is having on the oceans.

Over 90 percent of the plastic on the whale was collected from Main Hall. A total of 1350 pieces of single-use plastics were collected from trash cans, just during a six-week period, one hour per day.

“These are 1350 pieces of single-use plastic that could have been easily avoided being used,” Dr. Condie said. “If you do the math, we are using tens of thousands of single-use plastics every year on campus that we don’t need.”

Dr. Condie said she hopes the MCC community will adjust their habits to help the environment.

“Plastic is not the enemy,” she said. “Single-use plastic is the enemy. It is negatively impacting our environment and wildlife. Plastic doesn’t disappear. We hope students will realize the impact of their use of single-use plastics in their everyday activities. For example, if they go somewhere for a snack, they may say ‘No, I don’t need you to put my muffin in a plastic container that I’m just going to take to a table a few feet away,’ or ‘no I don’t need a plastic bag.’ Students can also use refillable water bottles.’”

She will be asking the College Assembly Student Life Task Force to consider a resolution making MCC as plastic-free as possible.

“There are simple things we can do,” she said. “It doesn’t have to be burdensome, but using reusable containers can make a big difference to the planet.”