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August 20, 2018 | by  | in News | [ssba]

Plastic Diet Under Membership Stress

Plastic Diet, a VUW club that aims to reduce plastic waste across the university, is stressed for numbers in membership, which may cause the club’s collapse.
Plastic Diet is the VUW branch of an organization whose main body is in Auckland. The club has raised awareness of a number of plastic consumption issues around campus, particularly disposable cups. They have encouraged cafés to provide reusable cups, which a number of outlets such as Louis and VicBooks at Pipitea now offer.
One of the club’s biggest activities is Waste Watchers, where they provide dishes to people eating at food outlets on campus, and wash those dishes as they are returned. In previous years, Plastic Diet held Waste Watchers about once a week in the Hub. As this year has seen fewer volunteers, Waste Watchers has become a rare rite.
“Currently we can’t do anything because we don’t have enough people there to help,” said club secretary Charlie Hann. They find the issues frustrating, hobbling their lofty goals, like “get[ting] rid of convenience culture” or even short term goals like having a disposable cup free day on campus.

“Two people cannot run a club,” Hann said. They and Sienna Kelly are heavily involved with Plastic Diet; most other exec members are third years or post-grads, all of whom have other serious commitments that prevent them from giving the time necessary for a work-intensive feat like Plastic Diet to stay afloat. “We [Kelly and Hann] do tend to suffer from burnout quite a bit,” they said.
“It’s not the clubs system, it’s the student culture,” said Hann.

While Plastic Diet has received some funding through the clubs system, applying for funding is “really hard”, and there have not been enough club members for detailed financial records to be kept.
Since Plastic Diet at Vic was founded in 2016, the number of disposable cups being used has definitely gone down, according to Hann, but they were unsure how much of that was due to them and how much was because of wider societal changes.
Businesses on campus are taking action too. Hann said that The Hunter Lounge and Louis (owned by the same people) are doing particularly well. The Hunter Lounge has been certified by Conscious Consumers for their composting, recycling, and BYO packaging options, according to Jack Barber, the manager. “[Plastic Diet] encouraged us to purchase second hand ceramics which we can give to people to take away instead of takeaway cups,” he said. The Hunter Lounge’s main waste streams are cardboard, which is recycled, and compost.
“Maki Mono is a really big problem because they only have those plastic containers [available],” said Hann.
Yosuke, a manager at Maki Mono’s Kelburn outlet, said “Our head office is really keen on reducing plastic waste now. We are shifting to use from plastic items to recyclable items for supply and tools”.


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