NSYSU joins hands with 71 restaurants to promote plastic-free dining
As part of the program, the NSYSU team of students and faculty rated the restaurants in six categories: eat-in tableware, utensils and cups, and take-out packaging, lunch boxes, and straws. Each one of the 71 restaurants on- and off-campus was awarded 0 to 3 points in each category and then, the restaurants got an overall rating of 1 to 5 stars. 37 out of the 71 rigorously examined restaurants were rated 4 or 5 stars. After the restaurants expressed their consent, four- and five-star restaurants were put on the map and given a certification sticker to place on the entrance door.
Director of the Aerosol Science Research Center Chia C. Wang said that lowering our dependence on plastic products has become an important issue. In recent years, PM 2.5 monitoring stations around Taiwan and in many other coastal cities around the world reported plastic particles floating in the air and the presence of plasticizers. Many scholars speculate that this might be related to the commonly used plastic products, such as plastic food containers. Research has shown that the total amount of plastic trash on the Earth’s surface will surpass 13 billion tons. Taiwan’s coasts are polluted with various marine waste; disposable tableware and utensils make up a significant part of it. Under the radiation of the Sun and scoured by marine water, plastic waste degrades into microplastics, which later enter the food chain. In recent years, plastic elements were detected in the bodies of marine organisms, such as fish, prawns, and crabs. These plastics accumulate in the organisms of animals of different levels of the food chain and ultimately end up in our bodies: microplastics were recently found in human tissues. Toxic substances in plastics not only cause a serious environmental problem but also have a negative impact on human health and increase the risk of cancer diseases.
To address the situation of disposable tableware polluting the marine environment, the Director of the Division of Promotion on the Education of Aerosol Science Associate Professor Paichi-Pat Shein has made efforts to promote the concept of plastic-free dining. She emphasized that everybody has the potential to change the environment, and that “consumption is a powerful tool”. In the era of consumer activism, consumers do not longer play a passive role. Because convenience is so important to modern people, take-away dining is steadily gaining popularity. However, to provide a convenient service to their customers, the sellers use plastic bags and disposable utensils for take-away, and these products not only cannot be reused and encumber the natural environment but also cause the customers to unknowingly ingest plasticizers and other toxins. If more customers dine in, the use of disposable utensils can be greatly reduced - this is a better option than take-away. The map of environmentally-friendly restaurants lets the students and teachers find out which places around the Sizihwan area serve food in non-disposable tableware and shows how to take care of the planet when eating out. The team hopes that more and more restaurants will respond to the trend of environmentally-friendly, plastic-free dining.
To encourage students and faculty of NSYSU to choose to dine at restaurants that serve food in environmentally-friendly tableware, the Aerosol Science Research Center and 71 restaurants on- and off-campus collaborate in launching a point-collection promotion. If you spend at least 80 NTD at once in one of the restaurants on the map, you will get one point. If you collect 8 points, you can exchange them for one Meissen mug (including one stainless steel straw) in the Aerosol Science Research Center on the 5th floor of the College of Science Building. The team hopes to promote the environmentally-friendly restaurants in the area and the concept of plastic-free dining by the power of consumption. The project team provided improvement guidelines for the restaurants which were awarded three or fewer stars and stays in contact with them. If they manage to have their rating upgraded, they will be put on the map of environmentally-friendly restaurants in the future. The list of participating restaurants and the ratings will be updated every year.