UVA's Single-Use Plastics Reduction Strategy

In March 2021, Governor Northam signed Executive Order 77: Virginia Leading by Example to Reduce Plastic Pollution and Solid Waste, which requires all state agencies, including institutions of higher education to cease buying, selling, and distributing single-use plastic and polystyrene food service containers, single-use plastic straws and cutlery, disposable plastic bags, and single-use plastic water bottles by July 21, 2021.The order also calls for agencies to phase-out the use of of all other single-use plastics by 2025. This order is a positive step toward making our whole Commonwealth cleaner and our economy more sustainable. It also aligns closely with the University’s own sustainability goals and work that has already been underway to reduce single-use plastics.

UVA’s EO77 Working Group, led by the UVA Office for Sustainability and comprised of 40+ representatives from UVA Dine, Athletics, UVA Health, Procurement, Facilities Management, the UVA Bookstore, the Alumni Association, and more, have developed a single-use plastics reduction plan, and are working on resources and trainings to help guide the University community through this transition. We recognize that there will likely be a significant amount of adjustments across Grounds and we appreciate your willingness to work alongside us during this evolving process.

UVA's Single-Use Plastic and Polystyrene EO77 Elimination Timeline

 

  • Single-use Plastic and Polystyrene Food Service Containers: Includes plates, cups, bowls, and hinged containers. Alternatives include reusable and compostable containers.
    • All eliminated by July 21, 2021

 

  • Single-use Disposable Plastic Straws and Cutlery: Includes straws, forks, spoons, knives, and stirrers. Alternatives include reusable and compostable cutlery.
    • All eliminated by July 21, 2021

 

  • Disposable Plastic Bags: Includes shopping bags and garbage can liners. Alternatives include reusable, compostable, no bag, or paper bags.
    • Bags from retail locations by July 21, 2021
    • Trash and recycling liners phased-out by December 2025 with proactive strategies to reduce the number of liners.

 

  • Single-use Plastic Water Bottles: Includes single-use plastic water bottles up to and including 34 ounces. Alternatives include refillable water bottles, tap water, water bottle filling stations or aluminum containers.
    • Eliminated to the extent possible by July 21. Concessions, vending, and some national brands will be phased-out by December 2022 (pending DEQ approval), with proactive strategies to reduce to the greatest extent possible in the near term.

 

  • Other Single-Use Plastics:  Includes plastics #1-7, such as beverage bottles, food containers and wrap, single-use coffee pods,  cleaning supply containers, promotional items, packaging materials, single-use gloves and more. Laboratory and medical supplies are excluded. Acceptable alternatives include reusable, compostable, or plastics that are recycled in a closed-loop system (recycled into the same materials).
    • Phase-out per EO77: a 25% reduction by the end of 2022, 50% by the end of 2023, 75% by the end of 2024, and 100% by the end of 2025

 

Resources for University Stakeholders

Trainings for purchasers, event planners, and student leaders are coming soon. In the meantime, please review this slide deck for an overview of EO77 expectations and resources if you have more questions. 

Purchasers

Eco-Products Full Line Catalog 2021

Contact Alita Salley (mgs8wh@virginia.edu) from UVA Procurement with any questions.

Event Planners

UVA's Zero Waste Events Guide

Contact Dana Schroeder (ds8nh@virginia.edu) from UVA's Office for Sustainability with any questions.

Student Groups

More resources coming soon. Contact Lela Garner (ldg6b@virginia.edu) from UVA's Office for Sustainability with any questions.

Coming Soon

  • Detailed training for purchasers, event organizers, and student groups
  • Recorded webinars of trainings for on-demand viewing
  • Additional detail on plastic pollution reduction strategies across Grounds
  • Information on increased composting around Grounds

 

Frequently Asked Questions

What changes can I expect on Grounds?

In order to comply with the Governor’s order, the University will take the first steps in our single-use plastic reduction plan in the coming weeks. UVA entities will no longer purchase single-use plastic bags, single-use plastic cutlery, single-use plastic food containers, and single-use plastic straws beginning July 21. Some existing inventory will continue to be used until depleted, as the Governor’s order allows.  The University will phase out plastic water bottles and plastic bag liners over the coming year to the extent possible, with significant reductions in plastic water bottles by July 21. As we phase out plastic materials, we will introduce alternate materials that will be reusable, compostable, or otherwise more sustainable. Community members will also see an increase in publicly accessible compost bins across Grounds to divert as much waste as possible. Here are some specific examples of adjustments we will be making starting July 21:

 

  • Facilities and venues across Grounds will offer and promote more visible zero waste strategies like stations to refill reusable water bottles, greater availability of compostable food and drink containers, and the placement of more composting and recycling bins. 
  • UVA Dine facilities will provide utensils and food-service items made from compostable materials rather than plastic.
  • Stores and dining facilities on Grounds will now offer patrons the option of no bag (use your backpack or tote), a reusable bag, or a paper bag. 
  • UVA’s centralized waste program for academic spaces, which co-locates recycling and landfill containers in central building locations, will continue to expand. This initiative aligns with the Governor’s order to reduce plastic bag liners, maximizes the efficiency of custodial services, and is a best practice in reducing waste sent to landfills.
Why is UVA participating in Executive Order 77?

Due to the nature of Executive Orders, the University of Virginia and all other state agencies in the Commonwealth are required to comply. We are excited to continue our existing initiatives and to move forward with more ambitious initiatives that align with UVA’s 2020-2030 Sustainability Plan waste minimization goals and ensure we are good stewards for our larger Charlottesville community.

Where can I learn more about UVA’s waste, composting and recycling systems?

At UVA we sort our waste into three separate streams: recycling, composting, and landfill. All items recycled on Grounds are hand-sorted by our UVA Recycling team at the Fontana Sort Facility (we do tours if you’re interested!). Our compostable items head across the mountain to Black Bear Composting in Crimora, Virginia. As a last resort, items that cannot be recycled, composted, or reused are sent to landfills within a 100 mile radius of UVA. See more specifics about waste minimization efforts on our Materials & Waste page or view the Where Does UVA's Waste Go Guide.

How can I learn more about Executive Order 77?

The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality’s website is a good source for additional information: https://www.deq.virginia.gov/get-involved/pollution-prevention/greening-of-government/eo-77. If you have reviewed all resources and completed the trainings (coming soon), please send any additional questions to sustainability@virginia.edu.

Does Executive Order 77 apply to the UVA Health and/or research laboratories?

EO77 does apply to UVA Health and research labs - for example, when purchasing for an event or stocking a kitchenette. However, certain plastics necessary for medical and/or research purposes are exempt from EO77. Additionally, per guidance from the Department of Environmental Quality, UVA has requested an extension for certain plastics necessary for public health and/or public safety.

What is required of UVA-affiliated units, Foundations, contractors, satellite locations, etc.?

Executive Order 77 applies to: 1) any purchases made with UVA funds; 2) all units, Foundations, and/or affiliates operating or providing a service on Grounds or in UVA-owned buildings; 3) all events and projects taking place on UVA’s Grounds. Email sustainability@virginia.edu if you’d like to ask specifically about expectations for your department or unit.

Are area caterers required to comply with UVA’s needs for plastic alternatives?

All official UVA vendors have been informed of EO77 and asked to comply. Some caterers have been using compostable wares for years, whereas others are still learning. In order to avoid adverse burdens on small-scale local caterers, UVA has been granted an extension in caterer compliance until December 2022. However, almost all area businesses should be willing to work with you to meet your needs.

Are all items from Eco-Products, Inc. compostable?

Unfortunately not. Eco-Products also offers non-compostable product lines. Always check each product.

Is boxed water an acceptable alternative for single-use plastic water bottles?

At this time, boxed water is not an acceptable alternative at UVA, because these cartons are not recyclable on Grounds.

What if alternative items cost more?

Reusable and compostable products often cost more than single-use plastics, so you may experience a budget adjustment period. If you feel you need more resources to do your job, talk to your supervisor.

Ideas to offset higher cost:

  • Work with caterers who provide compostables at no additional cost
  • Prioritize handheld food so that utensils aren’t needed
  • Encourage use of water refill stations instead of providing drinks
  • Host meetings at non-meal hours to reduce overall annual catering expenditures
What if someone asks me to order something I’m not allowed to order?

You can remind colleagues about EO77 by sending them a link to this webpage and offering to order alternative items instead.

If I have compostable wares at my event, how can I request compost bins?

To request compost, recycling, and/or landfill bins for your event, contact UVA Recycling at least five business days in advance at recycling@virginia.edu or 434-982-5050.

How can I request UVA’s portable water refill station for my outdoor events?

The H2O 2 GO outdoor refill station can be requested at no cost by emailing fm-h2o2go@virginia.edu with your event name, date, start time, end time, location, responsible contact name/phone/email, and estimated attendance.

What if my caterer brought me single-use plastic items?

There will be an adjustment period for many caterers, so go ahead and use plastic items if that’s what you were brought even after requesting compostable alternatives. If this happens, remove compost bins from the space to avoid contamination, and email sustainability@virginia.edu so we can follow up.