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Two TU Delft students started an online petition to ban the sale of single-use plastic bottles from the campus vending machines. “Preach what you teach,” they say.
Kritika and Mariana started a petition to ban the sale of single-use plastic bottles from the campus vending machines. (Photo: Gijs Walstra)

Two TU Delft students started an online petition to ban the sale of single-use plastic bottles from the campus vending machines. “Preach what you teach,” they say.

Kritika Karthikeyan and Mariana Cordoba Parra, both enrolled in the Sustainable Energy Technology (SET) master’s programme, were working on their thesis when they decided to take a much needed lunch break. In the small library canteen, the vending machines caught their attention. “How come a university like TU Delft still offers single-use plastic bottles when it’s not needed?” they wondered. So that’s why, on 15 April, they started a petition to ban the sale of single-use plastic bottles on campus.

350 signatures
In just one day, the two collected over 350 signatures of like-minded students, staff and the general public in Netherlands. “It’s quite simple.” Mariana explains their goal, “We want to raise awareness. Many people may think that if they carry their own personal water bottle, why should they care? But the fact is, as long as people are being given the option of buying a plastic bottle, there will never be any change. If you would ban all plastic bottles, people don’t have to choose.” Kritika nods. “It is so common for us not to see problems like these, because these bottles are so embedded in our systems. But in fact, people need to be aware of them and realise that, however small, they can still make a difference.”

For them, TU Delft is the pre-eminent place to make a difference. “We would like the campus to reflect what we are being taught. Preach what you teach,” says Kritika. “TU Delft has a great reputation worldwide, so why not set an example on something relatively small like this? I believe we kind of owe it to the community. Wouldn’t it be great if TU Delft would be the first zero plastic university in the world?”

Separate collection of PET bottles
The university, however, has no intention to ban these bottles on campus. “If we ban them, how would we handle the mountain of bottles that students bring themselves?” asks Process Coordinator Philippe van der Pal. “We hope to start a pilot in May with separate collection of PET bottles. Right now we are working hard to get support for this within TU Delft.”

According to both Kritika and Mariana, on top of the issue of people bringing in single-use plastic bottles to the campus addressed by Van der Pal, there is another underlying concern. “TU Delft cannot control what every individual does, but it can bring about a change in mindset by eliminating what can be controlled. In this case, the plastic bottles from the vending machines. If students and staff do not have access to plastic bottles from vending machines (to begin with), TU Delft will generate that much less PET trash. And this will just make plastic waste management at the university easier. We really hope to see stronger action taken by TU Delft.”

  • Kritika Karthikeyan and Mariana Cordoba Parra recently decided to break away from crunching numbers. “All day long we talk about energy and solar panels, but we also want to share our thoughts on other facets of sustainability that can actively involve people in making a change.” That’s why they started the blog Green My Vibe, to share knowledge and encourage readers to make that change, no matter how small.

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