Past Plastic

 

Eliminating single-use plastics will reduce microplastics in the environment, reduce equity issues associated with manufacturing and disposal of plastics, and reduce emissions that cause climate change.

Climate Crisis

The manufacture and the disposal of plastics increases the amount of greenhouse gases released into the environment, heightening the climate crisis.

Microplastics

Plastics that remain in the environment for a long time and degrade into small pieces are called “microplastics” that are ingested and inhaled by people and animals, and linked to a range of health issues.

Equity

Plastic resin, the feedstock for single-use plastics, is produced in petrochemical factories, the majority of which are built in low-income communities and communities of color. Also, if not successfully recycled domestically, SUPs enter the international waste stream, where plastic waste overwhelms markets and ecosystems in lower-income countries. Also, the climate crisis disproportionately affects low-income communities and countries. 

The solution to the single-use plastics crisis is eliminating our dependency on these products, and embracing a circular economy. The circular economy is a regenerative model that seeks to separate economic activity from the consumption of finite resources in order to design out waste and pollution, keep items and materials in use, and regenerate natural systems. In February 2021, GW President LeBlanc announced that GW would eliminate single-use plastics, and the policy will go in effect on July 1, 2021.

 


At GW, we're envisioning a world where single-use plastics are a thing of the past. 

Where we can move beyond relying on them to promote a healthier planet and the greater good. 

As we call on the community to join the collective effort, we will get past plastic.


Resources

 

Frequently Asked Questions 

Purchasing

Yes. While the intent of the single-use plastics elimination effort is a culture change around the way we at GW purchase single-use plastic items, the policy is specific to university operations and activities held on GW property (owned or leased). Still, all members of the GW Community are encouraged to travel with their reusable items when feasible.

First, look for a caterer who is able to avoid any single-use plastic in your order, and use reusable items whenever possible. Request that your caterer avoid single-use plastic items as indicated in GW’s list found on page 2 of this document. You are not required to find a new vendor if the request cannot be accommodated, but you are encouraged to work with your caterer to avoid plastic in packaging, cutlery, service ware, and condiments as much as possible.

Individuals in the GW Community should take all reasonable efforts to avoid using single-use plastics on GW property where alternatives are available. Supervisors will be responsible for ensuring that their team is eliminating the use of single-use plastics, with the understanding that it will take some time to transition to a new way of purchasing items. The university will review and audit purchases on a regular basis and the Office of Sustainability is available to help find alternatives.

Since GWorld dollars are your personal funds, yes, GWorld dollars may be used to pay for single-use plastics. However, purchases of single-use plastic items with GWorld dollars will not be reimbursed by the university.

Yes. P-card holders are expected to adhere to the single-use plastics elimination effort by avoiding all purchases of the single-use plastics included in the elimination list. 

Training will be provided for P-card users and approvers. Where alternatives to single-use plastics are not feasible, exceptions are determined by the supervisor of purchases at the department, division, or school. Additionally, audits of P-card purchases and procurement will be conducted to determine areas for improved performance. 

All purchases of single-use plastics on the elimination list require approval by the supervisor of purchases at the department, division, or school.

Rules for Using Plastic

While disciplinary actions would not be taken for using single-use plastics on campus, all members of the GW Community are encouraged to avoid the use of single-use plastics and use reusable items when feasible.

Plastic straws have been banned in DC since January 2019. Regarding customers with disabilities: "Please note that DOEE recognizes some customers with disabilities require plastic straws as a reasonable accommodation to consume food or beverages. Pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act and the DC Human Rights Act, some customers may request single use plastic straws to consume food and beverages. Regulated entities must keep a stock of plastic straws available to meet these needs and remain compliant."

Yes. Departments and student organizations are permitted to use their backstock of single-use plastic items until this inventory is exhausted.

Yes, this is permitted. Still, all members of the GW Community are encouraged to use reusable items when feasible.

Plastic straws have been banned in DC since January 2019. Regarding customers with disabilities: "Please note that DOEE recognizes some customers with disabilities require plastic straws as a reasonable accommodation to consume food or beverages. Pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act and the DC Human Rights Act, some customers may request single use plastic straws to consume food and beverages. Regulated entities must keep a stock of plastic straws available to meet these needs and remain compliant."

Exceptions may include purchases for art projects where alternatives to single-use plastics may be prohibitive. If there is no readily available alternative to the single-use plastics used in your project, you may continue to use single-use plastics. Such exceptions are to be determined by the supervisor of purchases at the department, division, or school.

If there is no readily available alternative to the single-use plastics used in your lab or medical research, you may continue to use single-use plastics. This issue will be revisited periodically as alternatives to single-use plastics are developed and brought to market. To aid the supervisor of purchases at the department, division, or school, clarification can be made on the P-Card purchase or invoice. Still, all members of the GW Community are encouraged to avoid the use of single-use plastics and use reusable items when feasible.

The Single-Use Plastics Policy applies to activities on campus. To aid the supervisor of purchases at the department, division, or school, clarification can be made on the P-Card purchase or invoice that the event took place off-campus. Still, all members of the GW Community are encouraged to avoid the use of single-use plastics and use reusable items when feasible.

The Single-Use Plastics Policy sets forth GW’s commitment for a changed culture in our community. 

Offices can switch to one of these options:

  1. Compostable pods - available for Keurig or a machine such as this

    1. If you have a Keurig machine, your options include: 

      1. OneCUP Pods

      2. PURPOD100

      3. EcoPod

    2. If you opt for the compostable pods compatible with a Keurig Machine, these pods should NOT be disposed of in either the recycling bin or waste bin. Pods must be separated and stored for compost pickup.  

  2. Reusable pods - available for Keurig only

    1. Keurig Reusable Filter

  3. A Nespresso machine that uses aluminum capsules

  4. A bulk hot beverage dispenser such as this

  5. A beverage pot or urn such as this

  6. Filtered hot water for use with instant coffee and compliant bagged or loose tea 

If there is no readily available alternative to the single-use plastics used to serve these beverages, you may continue to use single-use plastics. This issue will be revisited periodically as alternatives to single-use plastics are developed and brought to market.

Resources

A list of potential alternatives to single-use plastic will be made available in the future for members of the GW Community to consult.

A single-use plastic is intended to be used once and then disposed of. A multi-use, or reusable plastic item, is intended to be used indefinitely. Some items are clearly intended to be used multiple times, such as a sturdy reusable plastic shopping bag sold by the grocery store as an alternative to a single-use plastic bag. Others may be more ambiguous -- you may reuse a single-use plastic fork multiple times, washing it in between uses, but the item is manufactured and intended to be used only one time before disposal, and therefore falls under the GW single-use plastics policy. 

Recommendations made in the GW Single-Use Plastics Plan and the supplementary guide are secondary to official guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Since guidance from the CDC changes frequently, please be sure to check their recommendations. The purchase of single-use plastic where there is no disposable alternative (e.g., compostable disposable alternative) based on current CDC guidance will not be prohibited by GW.

Feedback is essential to ensuring that equity issues are addressed. Please email [email protected] with any equity-related concerns related to the single-use plastics elimination effort.