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UC announces plans to phase out single-use plastics by 2023

The University of California plans to phase out single-use plastics on all UC campuses by 2023. (Medha Vallurupalli/Daily Bruin)

By Shruti Iyer, Saumya Gupta, and Medha Vallurupalli

Aug. 24, 2020 1:47 p.m.

The University of California announced plans to phase out single-use plastics on campuses by 2023, as part of the University’s plan to achieve zero waste.

The policy will eliminate the use of plastic bags in dining and retail locations by Jan. 1, 2021, and remove single-use food service items by July 1, 2022, according to a University press release Monday. The policy will also discontinue the use of single-use plastic bottles by Jan. 1, 2023, according to the press release.

Dine-in facilities should provide reusable food service items, such as plates and cups, and to-go facilities should provide reusable or compostable containers as alternatives to single-use plastics, the press release added. The University will also encourage campuses to install water refill stations to help shift away from single-use plastic bottles.

David Phillips, the UC’s associate vice president for energy and sustainability, said in the press release that some changes in the recycling industry make it difficult to reuse plastics, and discontinuing single-use plastics would prevent them from entering the waste stream.

According to the press release, the policy is designed to give campuses the freedom to decide how to make these changes based on location-based needs. UC students from the California Public Interest Research Group played a major role in providing input about the new policy, the press release added.

CALPIRG students worked closely with the UC Office of the President to craft the new policy, the press release said. CALPIRG’s Plastic-Free Seas campaign collected over 12,000 student signatures in support of reducing single-use plastics across the UC system.

“We are incredibly proud of the UCs for this policy and pushing the boundaries for what is expected of campuses,” said Nicole Haynes, the Plastic-Free Seas campaign coordinator and a recent UC Berkeley graduate, at a press conference Monday held by CALPIRG and UCOP.

The UC’s purchasing power could push companies in California to pursue more sustainable products and packaging and help reduce the price of alternatives to single-use plastics, she said. 

California state Sen. Ben Allen, who was a panelist at the press conference, said at the press conference the policy shows that adopting sustainable policies in a large system like the UC is possible. Allen added that the UC has also helped him push environmental bills in the state legislature.

“There are alternatives out there. They work just as well, if not better, than the old alternatives that we’ve been using,” Allen said.

Allen said he is working with the state legislature to pass legislation that would reduce plastic waste in California by 75% and require single-use plastics to be recyclable or compostable by 2032.

“(The legislation) will tackle plastic statewide, finally requiring businesses to do their part and take responsibility for the plastic packaging they are placing on the market, so we can turn the tide and reduce the amount of plastic waste piling up in our communities,” Allen said.

Haynes said staff, students and faculty at UC campuses will work toward a plastic-free future.

“The new policy from the UCs is a huge achievement for the environment,” Haynes said. “Nothing we use for a few minutes should threaten our health and pollute our future for hundreds of years.”

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Shruti Iyer | Assistant News editor
Iyer is the current Science and Health editor and a reporter for News. She is also an Illustrator and Graphics contributor. She was previously a contributor for the Science and Health beat. She is a third year astrophysics student at UCLA who enjoys writing Physics and Astronomy research articles and drawing accompanying artwork.
Iyer is the current Science and Health editor and a reporter for News. She is also an Illustrator and Graphics contributor. She was previously a contributor for the Science and Health beat. She is a third year astrophysics student at UCLA who enjoys writing Physics and Astronomy research articles and drawing accompanying artwork.
Saumya Gupta | Assistant News editor
Gupta is the 2020-2021 assistant News editor for the national news and higher education beat. She was previously a contributor for the beat. She is also a third-year psychology student.
Gupta is the 2020-2021 assistant News editor for the national news and higher education beat. She was previously a contributor for the beat. She is also a third-year psychology student.
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