By Mia Juni / News Reporter || Edited by Giulia Leo
ROME–In an effort to reduce the amount of plastic in Trastevere, the bar and bistro Meccanismo is offering free water refills to JCU students, faculty and staff as of September to fight plastic waste.
Two flyers promote the initiative: one on the wall of the upper entrance of the café, and the other in front of the cashier. The motto, “Less Plastic, More Refill!” is printed in large font. The steps to complete the refill process are printed in smaller font at the bottom of the flyers.
Show a JCU ID to the barista, request either still or sparkling water, and give a bottle to be filled up behind the counter by the staff
No meal is required to be purchased alongside the refill, and it is only water refills, meaning no other drinks are included in the policy.
“Because of the global warming situation, we wanted to be more plastic-free and respect nature,” said Mark Pacsi, a staff member at Meccanismo. “That’s why we did this project with John Cabot, to be more aware.”
Pacsi said that faculty and staff are also eligible to receive refills with the show of their JCU ID. Other universities are not eligible yet.
Meccanismo informed JCU about the initiative while no permission was needed from JCU’s end. Although the project is separate from the university, JCU is eager to partner with Meccanismo on the project, according to Pilar Murguia, JCU’s Director of Student Services.
“Their own company is working to be environmentally sustainable and more green,” said Murguia. “We’re very happy to promote it.”
On Nov. 9, Isannah Marley, a first-year study abroad student at JCU tested the process for the first time.
“I just went in, showed my ID, asked for a free refill of cold water, and they did it right away,” said Marley. “The process was extremely easy.”
Besides the simplicity of the process, the green initiative behind the project offers a new incentive for students.
Jasmine Ahluwalia, another first-year study abroad student at JCU, utilized the refill offer a few times. She said that she was first attracted by the environmental aspect of it.
“The first thing I saw was ‘Less Plastic,’” Ahluwalia said. Since then, she makes sure to use the offer when she can.
Meccanismo is in the middle of JCU’s Guarini and Tiber campuses, both are a 3-minute walk away. The location of the bar appears to be practical.
Marley said that the goal to be more sustainable makes her want to utilize the policy even more.
“Especially if I’m walking from Tiber to Guarini after class, it’s so convenient to just stop and refill my water,” said Marley.
According to Pacsi, the Meccanismo staff said that mornings and afternoons are when they most see students stop by for a refill, as students come in after lessons and classes.
Kevin Olivera, a member of the morning and afternoon staff at Meccanismo said that quite a lot of students consistently come in around noon time.
“There are around 15 students that come every day,” Olivera said.
Olivera said the cafe is working towards being more environmentally friendly and sustainable. Every day, the bar staff divides and disposes of waste properly. Doing such “differenziata” separates food, glass, and plastic waste, categorizing them into different bins.
Plastic waste in Italy
Italy was the second largest consumer of plastics in Europe after Germany in 2020, according to a report from Plastics Europe a European trade association, and to ECCO Climate, the first independent Italian non-profit climate change think tank.
Plastic waste has become an increasingly larger issue, particularly with the single-use plastic water bottles (SUPs), which are not suitable to be reused due to their fossil-based plastic composition.
Considering the drastic plastic increase in Italy, ECCO Climate formulated a technical report this April, finding that Italy consumed 5.9 million tons of fossil-based polymers in 2020, which is almost 100 kilograms per person.
In a span of sever years, Italy’s per capita packaging waste increased from 12.9 kilograms to 23.7 kilograms— from 2013 to 2020.
The European Commission adopted the Single Use Plastic Directive (SUPD) in 2019 to promote the use of recycled and reusable material instead of single-use material. In 2021, it adopted restrictions on certain single-use plastics.
However, a SUPD law by the Italian government makes contradictory exceptions of certain use of plastics, and its proposal was not finalized before the EU deadline last year.
“Italy is clearly not committed to a genuine transition to a circular society. If we want to go beyond plastic and a single-use culture, we must avoid a simple material substitution,” said Giuseppe Ungherese, Greenpeace Italy’s toxics campaigner
Read a 2022 assessment report on the SUPD by Rethink Plastic Alliance.
Did You Know
- Eleven million tons of plastic end up in the sea each year, and this figure is forecast to double by 2030 and almost triple by 2040.
- From 2002 to 2020, annual production of plastics worldwide had increased from 200 to 367 million metric tons.