The University of California announced plans this week to phase out disposable plastic products in dining halls and other retail locations after a yearlong campaign by student activists.

The policy changes are to start next year and will be rolled out over the next decade at the 10-campus system, eliminating signal-use plastic products such as bags, eating utensils, straws and water bottles.

Students worked with the California Public Interest Research Group, or CALPIRG, to gather more than 12,000 signatures on UC campuses. The new policy was announced in collaboration with the UC Office of the President.

“Students are more conscious than ever of the consumption of plastic and its negative impact on our environment and public health, so we’re thrilled that our institution, which has so much purchasing power in California, is taking major steps to eliminate single-use plastic,” Nicole Haynes, a UC Berkeley graduate and CALPIRG organizer, said in a statement.

Only a small fraction of single-use plastic products are recycled, with the majority of materials ending up in landfills, oceans and other environments, according to UC researchers. The breakdown of plastic consumer products can result in so-called microplastics, which make their way into everything from tap water to fish to salt to farming soil. Plastic microbeads, used in health and beauty products as exfoliants, are another source of such pollution.

“The persistent environmental damage wrought by plastics on the environment and human health is well-known,” David Phillips, associate vice president for UC’s Department of Energy and Sustainability, said in a press statement. “With changes in the recycling industry that make it more difficult to reuse plastic products, the clear solution is to phase out single-use plastics so they never enter our waste stream in the first place.”

The timeline for eliminating disposable plastic products is as follows:

— Jan. 1, 2021: Plastic bags in on-campus retail and food establishments to be eliminated.

— July 1, 2021: Single-use dining accessories, such as straws and utensils, to be replaced with compostable alternatives.

— July 1, 2022: Dining halls to provide reusable plates, cups, clamshell containers and other items. To-go eating facilities to provide reusable or locally compostable alternatives.

— Jan. 1, 2023: Food-service operators to no longer sell single-use plastic beverage bottles. Campuses will be encouraged to install more water fountains to encourage the transition to reusable containers.

Additionally, UC schools will be directed to draft plans to fully rid their campuses of “nonessential” plastics by 2030.


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