Pandemic increases prevalence of trash and single-use plastics in area

After more than a year of living in a pandemic, locals have noticed the increase of single-use plastics and their impact on our environment.


“The pandemic has made all such single-use [plastic] efforts much more difficult. People are under the impression that it’s more hygienic to use single-use rather than normal silverware in a restaurant or takeout,” Bring Your Own Glen-Ed member Mary Grose said. “Restaurants, with all the takeout which has increased during the pandemic, that’s one big increase and then all the single-use utensils and condiments and so forth that they put in your bag.”


Bring Your Own Glen-Ed is a group targeted at reducing the use of single-use bags and encouraging people to bring their own reusable bags instead, according to their website. Grose said the group had been working on an ordinance for the city to impose a fee for each bag bought at stores.


“We wanted to address both paper and plastic bags,” Grose said. “What the ordinance ended up being is a 10 cent fee on all carryout, single-use plastic and paper bags in stores that are larger than 7,000 square feet in Edwardsville.”


The ordinance was passed and was supposed to be put into effect on April 1, 2020, but Grose said because of the pandemic it was quickly put on pause. She said the group is now waiting on the governor to put the ordinance into effect.


Rachel Tompkins, Edwardsville’s chair for the Cool Cities Initiative Advisory Committee, said she started to notice grassroot efforts in Seattle aimed at helping to reduce human’s carbon footprint and decided to bring it to Edwardsville.


“Let’s try at a local level to try and see if we can do something constructive with the climate crisis,” Tompkins said. “We’ve been working and actually are experiencing a whole lot more success now than ever before as the awareness has grown in general.”


Cool Cities is a committee which is aimed at advising the City of Edwardsville Illinois and its people in regard to ways in which they can reduce their carbon footprint, according to the City of Edwardsville website. Multiple other Metro East cities have a Cool Cities committee as well.


Tompkins said during the pandemic, overall waste has increased from restaurant’s usage of single-use plastics for carryout and medical waste with masks and other personal protective equipment. She said Cool Cities sent a letter to the City of Edwardsville, to be sent to the public, urging residents to ask restaurants to not include any extra plastics in their carryout bags.


“Our committee decided we are concerned about the amount of plastic utensils that get sent home with everybody,” Tompkins said. “Everyone you know has a drawer full if they don’t trash them immediately. The city posted a letter on their website, and one of our members wrote the letter.”


Although Edwardsville has experienced increased trash from the single-use plastics, SIUE has not had the same outcome. Director of Facilities Management Craig Holan said, in an email, with less students being on campus, they have had less trash altogether. 


For more information, visit Cool Cities Initiative Advisory Committee website or Bring Your Own Glen-Ed’s website.

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