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UBC Undergraduate Research

UBC Bookstore Plastic Bag Alternative Ali, Ali; Ng, Melanie; Wang, Grace


Single-use plastic bags have become a common household item since the 1970s. These are supplied nearly everywhere from grocery stores, to clothing stores and bookstores. Used to hold groceries, trash, and many other everyday items, they are immensely useful. Single use plastic bags however, have a destructive impact on the environment. UBC is a leader in global sustainability with UBC achieving a 34 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions since 2007, a reduction of campus water consumption by 50 percent since 1999, and natural gas consumption by 30 percent since 2014. In 2014, UBC created a Zero Waste Action Plan aiming to increase waste diversion towards an 80% target, and reduce waste disposal each year. However, the UBC Bookstore’s plastic bag usage has been increasing more than 100% since 2012. Despite trying to reduce the usage and offering other alternatives, the purchase and usage of plastic bags continues to increase in the Bookstore. The UBC Bookstore is considered to be one of the biggest patrons of single use plastic carrier bags on UBC campus. Therefore, implementing an environmentally friendly, affordable alternative to single use carrier bags is an important change that will align with UBC’s Zero Waste Action Plan. The purpose of our research was to identify an alternative to the single use plastic carrier bags offered currently at the UBC Bookstore. The alternative to the single use carrier bags needs to have minimal environmental impact and also meet the needs of the UBC Bookstore’s customers. To inform our decisions a thorough understanding of the current bag alternatives are required through a meta-analysis. A meta-analysis was done through UBC’s online database and Google Scholar. 3 governmental documents and 2 peer-reviewed papers were found to be used for this project. Findings from the literature reviews have provided us with insights regarding alternatives options suitable for the UBC Bookstore. Overall, the best ‘sustainable’ alternative found was to reduce or eliminate the usage of bags itself, and maximise the number of times reused. This report will provide recommendations for future research and actions taken by UBC Bookstore. The following includes an experimental design to determine how a psychological intervention can reduce the consumption of single-use carrier bags among customers, and further research surrounding carrier bag alternatives. Disclaimer: “UBC SEEDS provides students with the opportunity to share the findings of their studies, as well as their opinions, conclusions and recommendations with the UBC community. The reader should bear in mind that this is a student project/report and is not an official document of UBC. Furthermore readers should bear in mind that these reports may not reflect the current status of activities at UBC. We urge you to contact the research persons mentioned in a report or the SEEDS Coordinator about the current status of the subject matter of a project/report.”

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