UC, CalPIRG’s policy to reduce single-use plastic goes into effect

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The policy, released by the UC Office of the President, aims to reduce unnecessary plastic packaging waste on UC campuses entirely by 2030.

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A policy to phase out nonessential single-use plastics on UC campuses, created by the UC Office of the President, or UCOP, and CalPIRG, was announced and put into effect Monday.

The policy includes removing plastic bag use from food and retail services by Jan. 1, 2021, and replacing plastic dining utensils with reusable alternatives by July 1, 2021, according to a UCOP press release. The policy also promises that the UC will provide reusable food service items at dine-in services by July 1, 2022, and eliminate the distribution, purchase and use of plastic beverage bottles by Jan. 1, 2023.

This policy is a step toward the UC system’s goal to eliminate all nonessential plastics by 2030 as part of its plan to achieve zero waste on all campuses, according to the press release.

“Waste generation is a growing concern,” said Ryan Bell, UCOP associate director of sustainability, at the press conference. “It’s become more clear that we will not be able to recycle our way to zero waste.”

Reducing packaging waste, according to the press release, is the most effective way to protect environmental and public health.

Bell said campuses are currently deciding which plastics should be deemed essential in food and retail services and which should be considered nonessential.

“This new policy really came about after years of student advocacy, so it’s really exciting that the university is listening to student voices,” said Valerie Nguyen, chair of CalPIRG Students at UC Berkeley.

Nguyen added that the policy will help make an impact on plastic pollution in California.

By reducing its purchase of single-use plastics, the UC will encourage businesses to use plastic-free packaging, said Nicole Haynes, former chair of UC Berkeley’s CalPIRG Students.

CalPIRG’s Plastic-Free Seas campaign, which pushed for the implementation of this policy, sponsored resolutions from UC student governments and the UC Student Association that support the phasing out of single-use plastics, according to the press release.

“It’s really exciting to see grassroots efforts working to build towards something concrete,” Haynes said at the press conference.

CalPIRG is now calling on the state Legislature to pass the California Circular Economy and Plastic Pollution Reduction Act, which aims to reduce plastic use by 75% in the state and to make plastic packaging recyclable and compostable by 2032, according to the press release.

California state Sen. Ben Allen advocated for these bills, stating during the press conference that he hopes to see them passed this year.

“Nothing we use for a few minutes should threaten our health and pollute our future for hundreds of years,” Haynes said in the press release.

Shylie Ati is an academics and administration reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @shylieati.