Past Plastic

GW strives to have a positive impact on the local, regional, and global  environment, and eliminating ubiquitous pollutants such as single-use plastics will impact the environment swiftly and positively.

Plastic pollution, which is dominated by single-use plastics, is a serious concern in marine as well as terrestrial ecosystems. A 2015 study estimated that, of 275 million metric tons of plastic waste generated in coastal cities, 4.8 to 12.7 million MT entered the ocean. By 2050, experts estimate that, absent greater action, the ocean is expected to contain more plastics than fish by weight. In addition to being an unsightly addition to beaches and coastal communities across the globe, marine life consumes plastics both in large pieces and as microplastics, both which are harmful. Closer to home, the Anacostia River in Washington D.C. is one of the only rivers in the U.S. to be designated by the EPA as impaired by trash, including single-use pastics.

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.

 

Past Plastic

 

 

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.

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.

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. 

If the giveaway is reusable, like a pen, a stress ball, a reusable mug, etc., then the item itself is not in violation of the single-use plastics policy. However, if the items were ordered from the manufacturer and came wrapped in single-use plastic packaging, this would be in violation of the single-use plastics policy. As a result, it is best to work with the manufacturer/distributor of the giveaway item to ensure that the items are not individually wrapped in single-use plastic and that packaging for the product overall is minimal. 

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. 

 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.