This week, the University of California (UC) and CALPIRG announced a new policy to eliminate most of its single-use plastics throughout the statewide campus system. This builds off of local campus commitments earlier this year from UC Berkeley and UC Los Angeles. The new policy will transition UC campuses away from plastic bags in retail and dining locations and eventually eliminate single-use plastic food service items and plastic bottles. With 10 campuses, 5 medical centers, and over 500,000 students and staff, the UC system contributes $46.3 billion to the California economy every year.1 Due to its significant purchasing power and size (not to mention influence on the next generation of decision makers), this policy will make meaningful impacts on reducing plastic pollution. 

Here are the key dates and milestones:

  • Plastic bags in retail and food service establishments will be eliminated by Jan. 1, 2021.
  • Single-use plastic dining accessories (e.g., straws, utensils, stirrers) will be eliminated and replaced with reusable or locally compostable alternatives by July 1, 2021, with exceptions for accessibility needs.
  • Dine-in facilities will provide reusable food service items (e.g., plates, cups, clamshell containers) for food consumed on-site by July 1, 2022, and to-go facilities will provide reusable or locally compostable alternatives.
  • Campus food service operations will phase out the purchase, sale, and distribution of single-use plastic beverage bottles by January 1, 2023. To support this change, UC locations are encouraged to install water refill stations.
  • Also, the policy directs campuses to make plans to get their campuses to be free of non-essential plastics by 2030.

Since each campus is at varying stages in implementing its zero waste goals, the system-wide policy also allows each campus to implement these milestones in a manner that is feasible and manageable within their own campus. This allows flexibility for campuses to tailor their programs to fit their own needs. To learn more about similar comprehensive foodware policies implemented throughout the country and what it entails, check out our newest toolkit!

CALPIRG students worked closely with the UC Office of the President in developing policy language and, with the help of PLAN, led campus-wide campaigns to garner more than 12,000 student signatures over the past year. The Surfrider Foundation as well as both organizations are members of the Break Free from Plastic movement. This movement focuses on bringing systemic change globally through a holistic approach to tackling the plastic pollution across the whole plastics value chain, focusing on prevention rather than cure, and providing effective solutions.  

Following in the footsteps of the UC system, now is the time for the entire state to take a stance to address the plastic pollution crisis. We need the state of California to make similar commitments to phase out plastics by passing the CA Circular Economy and Plastic Pollution Reductions Act, bills AB 1080 and SB 54. These bills would reduce plastic waste in California by 75% and require all single-use plastics to be recyclable or compostable by 2032. 

Contact your representatives today urging them to support AB 1080 and SB 54! These bills will be voted on by August 31, 2020, and we need to let our legislators know how crucial these bills are in fighting plastic pollution.