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Campus Pledge

A pledge to guide campuses towards the long-term elimination of single-use disposable plastics

   (COLLEGE/UNIVERSITY)         commits to reducing single-use disposable plastic in the following ways:

  1. Develop a Plastic-Free or Zero-Waste Task Force including students, staff, faculty from appropriate departments, and administration that develops a roadmap to a plastic free campus. This includes setting goal dates for steps 2, 3 & 4 of this pledge (see Appendix A for examples).
    Target date for completion:_________________
  2. Immediate elimination of all non-essential, non-compostable, single-use disposable  plastics with readily available alternatives (see Appendix B for a list of suggested items and term definitions). In this step the Task Force will identify the items that are harder to eliminate because of a lack of available alternatives. All campuses are expected to ensure that disposable products are still available for accessibility reasons where applicable (see Appendix B I.A.i).
    Target date for completion:____________________
  3. Establish a procurement and/or purchasing policy which provides the framework for the long-term elimination of  all non-essential, non-compostable, single-use disposable plastics – both provided by the institution and those provided by contracted food vendors. This policy will focus on systematically switching all of these items to reusables or compostables (that don’t contain PFAS). (See Appendix C for policies, definitions & contract clauses).
    Target date for completion:____________________
    1. Implementation of campus-wide systems that facilitates the proper collection and management of the non-disposable products from step 3 (see appendix D for examples including: compost manual, reuse programs, and more).
      Target date for completion:____________________


    Signed by President of (College/University)

    Appendix A. Task Force Examples

    I. Recommended university groups to include in this task force. Please note that task force need not include all parties but should include as many as possible.

    • Facilities, Maintenance & Custodial
    • Grounds & Roads
    • Dining services – both University run and Contractors/Vendors
    • Campus Catering
    • Campus To-Go Eateries and Coffee Shops
    • Athletics – Concessions
    • Housing services
    • Sustainability office
    • Students, Staff, Faculty
    • Administration / Provost / CFO
    • Health and wellness department
    • Resident life
    • Event Planning
    • Purchasing/Procurement
    • Surplus
    • Campus Planning

    II. Examples

    Penn State University Waste Stream Task Force addresses plastic bag usage.

    “The Penn State Waste Stream Task Force was convened by David Gray, Senior Vice President for Finance and Business and University Treasurer, in the spring of 2018. The Task Force is co-sponsored by Charles Whiteman, Dean of the Smeal College of Business, and William Sitzabee, Associate Vice President of the Office of Physical Plant. The Task Force was charged with creating fiscally, environmentally, and socially responsible goals and principles to guide the University’s procurement, operational, and solid waste management decisions while also providing opportunity for academic engagement.”

    University of California School System develops Waste Task force.

    “A Landfill and Solid Waste Diversion Task Force was charged by Executive Vice Chancellor Galloway in September 2011 to identify initiatives to reach the system-wide waste diversion policy goals of 75 percent diversion by 2012 and Zero Waste (100 percent diversion) by 2020. In Fall and Winter 2011-12, the Task Force worked with SAIC Consulting to conduct a campus-wide waste assessment and identify early action items to reduce waste both in the short and long term. In order for UCSC to achieve system wide policy goals, the campus will need to focus on several areas as outlined below.”

    Community members of Asheville and Buncombe County developed a Plastic Reduction Task Force to address single use plastic.

    “Over 75 people signed up for the interest meeting and the room could only accommodate 40 participants. Participants in the first meeting of the Plastics Reduction Task Force on January 23, 2019, divided themselves into the following four committees: Voluntary Bag Ban; Restaurants and Small Businesses; Education and Outreach; Website.”

    An executive order by the Governor of Rhode Island created a task force.

    “In July, Governor Gina M. Raimondo signed an Executive Order aimed to reduce reliance on single-use plastics that often end up in Rhode Island’s waters and shoreline. The Tackling Plastics Executive Order targets single-use disposables such as shopping bags, bottles, cups and straws – along with items like six-pack rings and balloons – that become unsightly, dangerous and all-too-familiar litter on land and in coastal waters.”The Executive Order specifically creates a task force that will: Encourage the financial and market factors needed to support reducing and recycling plastics; Develop non-regulatory recognition and incentive programs, potential legislation and/or regulations and other measures to eliminate the sources of plastic pollution; Support and build on the new Zero Plastics Initiative with the Rhode Island Marine Trades Association (RIMTA) and on the state’s existing, successful recycling programs; and Educate Rhode Islanders on the importance of and means to reducing and recycling plastics.”


    Silliman University in the Philippines forms their Waste Management Committee

    “After the school year opened, president McCann and Dr. Jorge thought of organizing a Waste Management Committee (WMC) and they made a list of the key people they would need to invite to their first meeting. They talked to different people one-on-one and eventually brought in the following people:  the VP for Finance and Administration (who is in charge of budgeting and spending and in charge of the staff); the VP for Academic Affairs (who oversees the deans and department heads); the Dean of Agriculture (who could help them with composting); the Dean of Student Services; the Pollution Control Officer (who has been trying to get other members of the administration to think about how they can improve their solid waste management and was having some difficulty on his own); the Officer-in-charge of the Student Organizations and Activities Division (who is in charge of a key area in terms of waste generation); the President and the Environment Committee Head of the Student Council; the Head of STEWARDS (a grad student volunteer organization based out of the Institute of Environment and Marine Sciences); Key support units like: Food Services, Student Housing and Residences, Buildings and Grounds (in charge of waste collection, dumping, and managing the MRF), the Office of Information and Publications (which manages the website, newsletters, their big screen in front of the university, as well creates and distributes banners, posters, etc.)”

    Appendix B. Definitions and List of Items

    Note: While we provide guidelines below, we encourage customization of this step. Single use items can be added or removed from the list as deemed necessary by region. Some institutions may find putting dates for each step is helpful, while some may have none of these items on campus currently.

    I. Definitions

    A.  Non-essential is defined as “disposable, not absolutely necessary items with readily available alternatives.” These can be replaced with reusable containers, compostable containers, bulk-serve options, or take back programs – all while taking into account the needs of those with differing abilities and restrictions that require use of such items.


    Accessibility should be at the forefront of food-service vendors efforts when working towards restricting single-use disposable plastic. For example, when eliminating single-use plastic straws, dining facilities and vendors should make it clear that they still provide single-use plastic straws upon request (and without question), whenever anyone wants or needs one. Plastic straws are necessary for some individuals with physical disabilities, and should be accessible without question or judgement.


    B. Non-compostable is defined as products that cannot be accepted by available industrial composting facilities – compostable products must be BPI-certified. 

    • “Biodegradable” materials are not always certified compostable. 
    • Items that contain PFAS are also not certified compostable.
    • Please note that local or on-campus industrial compost facilities must be able to accept and process these items.

    C. Single-use disposable is defined as a product with an intended lifespan of one use, i.e. one meal, one drink, or disposed of within 24 hours

    D. Reusable alternatives should be favored over single-use compostable items when accessible


    II. List of items:

    • Single-use plastic utensils;
    • Single-use plastic straws & stirrers; 
    • Single-use plastic food service ware (cups, plates, bowls, trays, sauce dishes, lids); 
    • Single-use plastic clamshells & to-go containers; 
    • All polystyrene (Styrofoam™ and similar) food service products, 
    • Single-use plastic-lined cups and bowls (coffee cups, soup bowls, snack boats);
    • Single-use plastic-wrapped condiments, sauces, and seasonings (butter, jelly, peanut butter, creamers, sugars, salt, pepper);
    • Individually-packaged items with bulk alternatives (napkins, oyster crackers; 
    • Individually wrapped fresh baked goods, mints, toothpicks);
    • Single-use hot beverage packets unnecessarily packaged in plastic (K-Cups, plastic-wrapped tea bags);
    • Plastic shopping bags;
    • Plastic-wrapped giveaways;
    • Plastic Layered Sachets;

    III. Exemptions: due to the present lack of large scale alternatives, the following plastics often cannot be phased out immediately and require careful consideration, research, and planning.  Immediate investment (in step 4) should be focused on items like these.

    • Pre-Packaged Plastic-Wrapped Retail Items (chip bags, granola bar wrappers, candy bar wrappers, water/soda bottles, toiletries, etc)
    • Plastic trash and recycling bags
    • Plastic wrap for use during food prep (this does not refer to individually wrapped food items, as noted above)
    • Plastic and polystyrene (Styrofoam™) packing material from incoming orders
    • Plastic packaging from external caterers (unless already excluded in campus policy)
    • Single-use plastics used in academic settings (e.g. lab equipment)
    • Single-use plastics necessary for health or safety purposes (medical plastics, ….)
    • Departmental giveaways (aka. swag) that is often made from flimsy plastic, breaks easily, and is not intended for long-term use or function

    IV. Europe Bans 10 Single Use Plastics

    “The proposed measures can be summarised as follows (see also the table below for an overview): > market restriction: banning certain items for which affordable alternatives exist: plastic cotton bud sticks, cutlery, plates, straws, drink stirrers and sticks for balloons;consumption reduction: requiring Member States to achieve a ‘significant reduction’ in the consumption of food containers and drinks cups, for instance by setting national targets, making alternative products available to consumers, or ensuring that single-use plastic products cannot be provided free of charge; > separate collection: requiring Member States to ensure that by 2025, 90 % of single-use plastic drinks bottles are collected, for example through deposit refund schemes;7 > product design: requiring single-use plastics drinks containers and bottles to have their caps and lids attached; > extended producer responsibility: requiring Member States to ensure that extended producer responsibility schemes are established for a number of single-use plastic items (food containers, packets and wrappers, drinks containers and cups, cigarette filters, wet wipes, balloons and lightweight plastic bags) as well as fishing gear. For single-use plastics items, producers would cover the costs of waste management and clean-up, as well as awareness raising measures; for fishing gear, producers would cover the costs of waste management of gear delivered to port reception facilities; labelling: requiring certain items (sanitary towels, wet wipes and balloons) to bear a label indicating how items should be disposed of, the negative environmental impact of inappropriate disposal, and the presence of plastics in the product; > awareness raising: requiring Member States to raise consumers’ awareness about available re-use systems and waste management options as well as about the negative impacts of inappropriate disposal. These measures would apply to food containers, drink cups, drinks containers, balloons, packets and wrappers, cigarette filters, wet wipes and sanitary towels, lightweight plastic carrier bags, and fishing gear”

    V. Rio De Janiero bans single use plastic bags

    (translated from Portugese) “The commercial companies and businessmen referred to in Article 966 of the Civil Code, holders of commercial establishments located in the State of Rio de Janeiro, are prohibited from distributing (free of charge or charging) disposable plastic bags or bags, composed of polyethylenes, polypropylenes and / or the like, and must replace them within eighteen (18) months from the date of date of publication of this Law, by reusable / returnable bags, as specified in §1 of this article”

    Appendix C. Policies, Definitions & Contract Clauses

    I. In this step we encourage the campus to establish a campus-wide procurement policy that affects all dining providers, food-service vendors, and campus caterers. It is important that this policy is enacted at the campus-wide level, in order to streamline and reduce the cost of campus purchasing systems, as well as to reduce participant confusion.

    Example A: For a campus to set up a campus wide reusable to-go container program, all campus dining providers and food vendors would need to be able to accept a uniform set of containers, and the campus will need to be able to keep track of them, develop programs to incentivize the return of them, and establish a system for washing them. Streamlining this process will improve the efficiency of the system, reduce the cost of procurement and labor, and reduce participant confusion.

    Example B: Because many certified compostable products look like disposable products, it is important that all dining providers and food vendors use the same compostable products in order to allow for the campus to establish a standardized bin and signage system, educate all participants, and reduce confusion – which in turn will reduce the risk of contamination in the recycling and composting streams.


    II. Policy Examples

    American University Sustainable Purchasing Goals

    • Bottled Water: “Purchase no single-serve bottled water for university consumption by the end of CY [Year].”

    University of California Sustainable Procurement Guidelines

    • Compostable Food Service Ware: “Compostable food service containers and packages that have recycled and/or sustainably harvested content are preferred wherever possible.” 

    Arizona State University Purchasing and Business Services Manual

    • Packaging: “Packaging that is reusable, recyclable, or compostable is preferred, when suitable uses and programs exist, as is eliminating packaging or using the minimum amount necessary for product protection to the greatest extent practicable. The supplier is expected to pick up packaging and either reuse it or recycle it.”

    Stop Waste EPP Model Policy

    • “Purchase products that are durable, long lasting, reusable or refillable and avoid purchasing one-time use or disposable products.”
    • “Request vendors and contracted services (i.e. custodial, event caterers) eliminate packaging, purchase ingredients/supplies in bulk, or use the minimum amount necessary for product protection. Vendors shall be encouraged to take back packaging for reuse. A vendor’s willingness to take back packaging will be used as part of the consideration in the bid process.”
    • “Specify a preference for packaging that is reusable, recyclable, or compostable, when suitable uses and programs exist.”
    • “Use bio-based plastic products that are biodegradable and compostable, such as bags, film, food and beverage containers, and cutlery over petroleum-based plastic products, when reusable products are not an option.”

    CSU procurement policy

    • “Campuses shall establish purchasing practices that assure, to the maximum extent economically feasible, the purchase of single-use plastics including plastic straws, plastic water bottles, and plastic bags are eliminated.”

    Silliman University Environmental Principles, Policies and Guidelines

    • Encouraging reusables: “Everyone shall practice pollution prevention (also known as waste reduction or source reduction) by using reusable or biodegradable bags, reusable straws, reusable drinking bottles, and reusable or biodegradable containers when purchasing products, food items, and drinks”
    • Compostable packaging: “Wrapping or serving food in compostable materials such as banana leaves, or in reusable glass, ceramic, metal or hard plastic containers is preferred. Plastic bags and single-use plastic containers are prohibited except on rare occasions where they are proven essential for food safety.”


    III. Sample Contract Clauses to be used with vendors and other contractors

    Single-Use, Non-Essential Items

    Avoid purchasing and distributing one-time use or disposable products, including single-use plastic utensils; single-use plastic straws and stirrers; single-use plastic plastic food service ware; single-use plastic clamshells and to-go containers; all polystyrene (Styrofoam™ and similar) food service products; single-use plastic-lined cups and bowls; single-use plastic-wrapped condiments, sauces, and seasonings; individually-packaged items with bulk alternatives; individually wrapped fresh baked goods, mints, toothpicks; single-use hot beverage packets unnecessarily packaged in plastic; plastic shopping bags; plastic-wrapped giveaways.

    Compostable Products

    “Vendors must provide proof of compliance with ASTM standards for compostable, biodegradable, and degradable paper and plastic products upon request. One acceptable proof of compliance for compostable products will be certification by the Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI).” (StopWaste)

    Appendix D. Alternative Campus systems for waste disposal

    I. In this step we encourage the Task Force to develop the campus-wide systems necessary to properly capture reusable and compostable materials at the campus-wide level. This includes ensuring the campus operates, or has access to, an industrial scale composting facility, and a reusable to-go container program that includes a take-back and dishwashing system. This also includes establishing a standardized collection bin and signage system, as well as a process to continue to track and identify waste issues on campus and invest in innovative solutions. 

    II. Compost systems

    Ohio University Composting Facility

    Rice University Composting Proposal

    III. Reuse systems

    Bishop O’Dowd High School Reusable Baskets

    Reduced over 100,000 disposable items and saved almost $6,500/year

    University of Florida

    OZZI System

    GO Box in Portland

    GreenToGo in Durham

    Vessel cups in Boulder and Berkeley

    IV. Bin Standardization

    University of Michigan bin Standardization

    Emory University Bin Standardization

    V. Investment 

    University of Minnesota plastic research

    Campus Green Fund

    Sustainability Majors and Minors

    Bulk Bin System

    Interested in your campus signing the pledge?

    Fill out the form below and we will send you a signature-ready version, and we will be in touch to help you set up a plan to Break Free From Plastic on campus.

    Break Free From Plastic Pledge
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