NUS’ campaign to ban straws is being bashed by students – here’s why

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Another organisation in Singapore has banned single-use plastic straws – but the initiative has met major backlash.

In an attempt to save the environment, the National University of Singapore (NUS) launched straw-ban campaign iReject in October at certain food and beverage outlets on campus.

Sounds good and forward-thinking, right? Not so, say some students.

Many students aren’t so happy about the campaign, and some of them have gone on the NUSWhispers Facebook page to anonymously express their displeasure over the way it was implemented.

One contributor claimed that he or she was “very irritated” by the strawless campaign, and then proceeded to buy 1,000 plastic straws just to dispose of them.

The student wrote: “I shall sleep a little better tonight knowing that my small actions went a little way against thawing the efforts of thoughtless campaign.”

A report by The Straits Times quoted students as saying that they were not upset over the message of being environmentally conscious, but rather the abruptness of the ban and how it was executed.

Some were adamant that a top-down ban was the wrong move. Instead, education and choice should go hand in hand, they said.

One student on the NUSWhispers Facebook page said the campaign was “sorely lacking in proper planning”.

According to him or her, the university only notified students via email about the campaign one day before it was implemented.

The student also wrote that a more informative campaign should have been introduced to focus on gradually changing students’ consumption habits.

“Overall the campaign feels like just another half-hearted attempt at appearing to care,” he or she added.

Another submission called the campaign “stupid”, and said turning up or switching off the air conditioning in classrooms could be a more effective method of saving the Earth.

“If you walk into a random classroom in campus, chances are the A/C are running even if it is vacant,” the netizen said.

Still, there are many students on the other side of the fence who have voiced support for the campaign.

One student said that the unhappiness online was voiced by a “vocal minority”, and did not reflect the sentiments of all on campus.

One contributor agreed that NUS’ execution could have been better managed, but hopes it did not “dilute the greater meaning behind rejecting straws in the first place.”

When contacted, an NUS spokesperson said in a statement: “We value the views and suggestions from the NUS community to improve the iReject campaign.

“A student-led task force, comprising representatives from the NUS Students’ Union, campus environmental groups and staff from the NUS Office of Campus Amenities, has recently been established to look into feedback from students, staff, and canteen operators, as well as to improve communication between the various stakeholders. The task force will also explore alternative approaches to complement the current iReject campaign.”

Following the uproar, the NUS Students’ Union also issued an official statement acknowledging the issue.

According to the union, the senior administration have acknowledged that proper consultation and early communications with students could have prevented these concerns.

It added that it will take into account students’ feedback, and work closely with University Campus Infrastructure and student-led environmental groups for a “smoother transition and better communication”.

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