Plastic bottles filled the Reflecting Pond on Wednesday for SGA’s Reflect on Sustainability event. In the spirit of Earth Month, SGA teamed up with UCF Recycles, Advanced Disposal and hundreds of student volunteers to fill the Reflecting Pond with 250,000 plastic bottles to raise awareness.

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In today’s society, plastic seems to be in most products. From the start to the end of our day, plastic is all around us. You may wake up with a plastic alarm clock, eat with plastic utensils, wash your face, brush your teeth with a plastic toothbrush and even drink water from a single-use plastic water bottle.

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While plastic pollution may not be an issue on everyone’s mind, we all contribute to the problem and plastic bottles are a starting point to the solution.

“Single-use plastic water bottles are the bane of my existence, so I suppose you could call it a sort-of personal vendetta,” SGA Health and Sustainability Coordinator Emily Dovydaitis said. “Environmentally and economically speaking, single-use plastic bottles just don’t make sense when you consider how easily accessible clean water is in the United States.”

Passionate about reducing plastic waste, Dovydaitis has been trying to put this event together ever since she had the idea last July. She set out on the goal to visually demonstrate to students that plastic bottles accumulate faster than we may sometimes think. She added that switching from single-use plastic bottles to reusable bottles is a simple lifestyle change that students can make to live more sustainably without spending a lot of money.

About 250,000 plastic bottles flowed through the UCF Reflecting Pond for an event titled Reflect on Sustainability. The UCF Student Government Associated teamed up with UCF Recycles and Advanced disposal to show students how much plastic waste the UCF community generates.
About 250,000 plastic bottles flowed through the UCF Reflecting Pond for an event titled Reflect on Sustainability. The UCF Student Government Associated teamed up with UCF Recycles and Advanced disposal to show students how much plastic waste the UCF community generates.

UCF freshman Lubba Wintzr said the visual of plastic bottles filling the pond reminded her of a trip to Africa where she witnessed the drastic issues plastic bottles have created.

“I think people don’t realize how much their actions affect the environment,” Wintzr said. “I know people who think ‘oh its just one plastic water bottle, what harm can it do’ but its like when you see here how much it accumulates into one area…I think people just don’t realize. You have to show them in this huge manner what they do is harmful.”

Students passing by the Reflecting Pond had the opportunity to stop by the education station tents to sign the Earth Month pledge and receive a t-shirt and reusable water bottle.

The 250,000 water bottles UCF Recycles collected for the event only took about a month’s time for UCF to produce.

Up-close look at the Reflecting Pond on Wednesday. Photo by Aileen Perilla.
Up-close look at the Reflecting Pond on Wednesday. Photo by Aileen Perilla.

The State of Florida has mandated that all government and state buildings maintain a 30 percent recycling rate, however, UCF has a 25 percent recycling rate, according to UCF Recycles’ website.

Single-use plastic bottles are only a small part of a large, intricate web of environmental issues.

Plastic bottles take over 1,000 years to biodegrade but they cannot be incinerated because they produce toxic fumes, according to the Belmont University website.

When plastics are not recycled, they can end up in the ocean where 100,000 marine animals are killed annually as a result of plastic pollution, according to Advanced Disposal’s website.

Dovydaitis explained recycling as a bandage and said she encourages people to reduce and reuse items before they are recycling them.

“After all, development of environmentally-friendly habits isn’t reserved to tree huggers and bra-burning hippies,” Dovydaitis said. “We can all make little tweaks to our day to day routines to keep our planet alive and well.”