The phasing out of single-use plastics and polystyrenes – including disposable plastic bags, water bottles, and on-the-go polystyrene containers – is of particular importance to Virginia Tech’s sustainability leaders at the light of Executive Decree 77: Leading by example to reduce plastic pollution and solid waste.
Signed into force by Governor Ralph Northam in March 2021, the ordinance requires all state agencies and universities to stop buying, selling and distributing disposable plastic bags, plastic food service containers and disposable polystyrene, plastic straws and cutlery, and plastic -use water bottles. The decree also requires these groups to develop a long-term plan to reduce plastic pollution and divert waste.
In July 2021, all of Virginia Tech, including Virginia Tech Athletics, Virginia Cooperative Extension, and contracted food service providers, stopped purchasing and distributing Styrofoam catering containers and began incorporating more sustainable alternatives into their offers.
Longer term, Virginia Tech and its suppliers will stop purchasing and distributing plastic cutlery, straws and beverage stirrers by the end of December 2022. Virginia Tech and Virginia Cooperative Extension are in the process of identifying and assess other viable alternatives for plastic. cutlery, straws and drink stirrers.
A cross-functional university working group continues to work closely to ensure university-wide compliance with the ordinance. The team submitted an initial implementation plan to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) in July.
The working group includes stakeholders from procurement, food services, housing and residential living, the division of campus planning, infrastructure and facilities, athletics, the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Virginia Cooperative Extension and the Office of the Vice President of Research and Innovation.