Past Plastic

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.


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.


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.

As part of its commitment to eliminating single-use plastics, GW is installing water bottle filling stations in every residence hall and academic building on campus, as well as several outdoor locations. 


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 



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

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.


Is there a buying guide or other list of recommended products I should purchase instead of purchasing a single-use plastic product?

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

What differentiates a single-use plastic from a multi-use plastic? Is there a resource for this?

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. 

How does this relate to COVID safety protocols?

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.

Is the commitment to eliminating single-use plastics going to raise the cost of living? How can we ensure the shift will be an equitable one, not overburdening lower-income students?
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.