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SGA proposed new legislation that aims to reduce plastic waste

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SGA proposed new legislation that aims to reduce plastic waste

Alexia X. Nava Carmona, Reporter

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The Student Government Association at UTEP aims to reduce waste on campus. SGA Collegiate Senator for the College of Liberal Arts, Omar-Eduardo Barriga, proposed Article XIII, a piece of legislation that aims to reduce plastic waste on campus.

“I promised last year that I was going to come up with legislation in order to make campus more greener or sustainable,” Barriga said. “ (It) seems the recycling program that we currently have is not working.”

Article XIII states that SGA should not use single-use plastics at their events and should only use plastic straws if these are the only accessible items for the event. Outside of that, SGA should aim for paper straws or other environmentally friendly options. Water bottles are still permitted in SGA events under this legislation, but only as a last resort.

SGA is the largest organization on campus with the largest budget, Barriga said. SGA senators host special events each semester and during those projects, they tend to use a lot of plastic utensils.

“What we do for those projects is that we order cups from Sodexo, plastic plates, plastic cups…  A bunch of items that are made of plastic,” Barriga said. “What I’m trying to do is trying to find another option and more sustainable options so we don’t produce that much trash every year.”

As the general public has become more aware of the impact of plastic waste, several governments have been making legislation to reduce waste, including single-use plastic bans, according to the “Running list of action by plastic pollution” by National Geographic.

Back in July, legislators in Seattle, Washington banned restaurants and bars from using plastic straws and utensils. Starting this year, the use of plastic straws for restaurants and other businesses have been banned in Washington D.C.; starting in July, businesses that offer plastic straws will be fined.

Following this change in society as a whole, Barriga said he has received positive feedback on Article XIII and believes the student population will be supportive of the proposal.

“Right now, we millennials, we’re realizing that we’re producing too much trash that’s going to stay on Earth, and the majority of the plastic that we produce, even if we don’t live in coastal areas, is going to end up in the ocean somehow,” Barriga said.

However, there are some setbacks for the legislation’s approval. For Article XIII to be passed, two-thirds of the Senate needs to approve it and there are a number of Senators that are reluctant to do so. They fear that prices to order food will increase if the dishes and other utensils are made of materials other than plastic, according to Barriga.

Another worry the senators have is whether Sodexo will be willing to work with them or not, which Barriga affirms is possible.

“I spoke with (Sodexo) … they are willing to accommodate the Student Government Association. They have more sustainable options,” Barriga said.

Barriga is hopeful that the approval of the legislation, even though it only applies to SGA for now, will start inspiring other student organizations to turn to more environmentally friendly options and reduce plastic waste in general throughout the UTEP campus.

“What I’m trying to do is I’m trying to inspire or maybe invite other organizations here at UTEP to stop using plastic,” Barriga said. “I hope other organizations here on campus follow along but, at the end of the day, my work is going to be with the student government only, for now.”

Barriga plans to add Article XIII, if it’s approved, to the bylaws of the SGA Constitution.

To manage this, Barriga has to turn in Article XIII to the SGA Document Review Committee (DRC), to review and revise the document. Once the DRC revises the document, it will turn the document into the Senate where its approval will be decided on whether it gets two-thirds of the Senate votes in its favor or not.

Barriga hopes to achieve this by the time he graduates in May.

“Once I leave in May, that rule is going to be in the Constitution already and future SGA generations are going to have to follow it along,” Barriga said. “If the school administrators see,  ‘OK, the students care about this, they might implement it into other departments here on campus. Those are my expectations, something that’s going to stay and future senators are going to have to follow along now.”

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SGA proposed new legislation that aims to reduce plastic waste