CSU system places ban on single-use plastic bags, straws

by Lauren J. Mapp, Senior Staff Writer

A retroactively-instated decision by the California State University system has placed a ban on all single-use plastic bags and straws as of Jan. 1 on the 18 campuses throughout the state.

“Plastic straws can end up in waterways (and) it can affect them,” said Tom Abram, assistant director of sustainability. “By moving away from that, we can protect the environment and also reduce the amount of petroleum that we’re consuming.”

The rolling elimination of single-use plastics further enhances the CSU Board of Trustees’ Sustainability Policy, according to a CSU press release. Previous to the implementation of this new policy, some colleges have already begun to phase out plastic products.

Humboldt State University stopped selling plastic water bottles during the 2011-2012 academic year. San Diego State Dining Services Director Paul Melchior said SDSU implemented limitations on plastic bags on campus a year ago.

The systemwide ban of plastic straws and bags on campuses is just one step toward the CSU system eliminating the use of all single-use plastics.

Single-use plastic water bottles will no longer be allowed on campuses as of Jan. 1, 2023 and polystyrene, Styrofoam, will be phased out by Jan. 1, 2021, according to the CSU Policy Manual for Contracting and Procurement. The policy states all single-use plastics will be replaced by locally compostable, recyclable or reusable items.

An exception to the policy includes items that are necessary to adhere to the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Currently deciding between the options of compostable or paper straws versus a complete ban on the drinking utensil, Melchior said the stock of previously purchased plastic straws will continue to be used until they are phased out.

In the past, SDSU has been used as a pilot space for companies to use alternative serving materials. This was the case with Panda Express and Rubio’s when SDSU banned Styrofoam on campus 10 years ago, Melchior said.

“They actually used our location for Rubio’s as their test pilot, and now Rubio’s doesn’t serve any Styrofoam across their whole chain,” Melchoir said.

As a way to incentivize sustainability-minded behavior on campus, reusable utensil kits have been purchased through the Pepsi Sustainability Fund and will be given to students who are “caught green handed,” Abram said. These kits include a metal fork, spoon, knife, straw and straw-cleaning brush in a carrying pouch.

Business management senior Bobbie Gutierrez said she supports the CSU decision to ban single-use plastic products on the campuses.

“I think sustainability is important,” Gutierrez said. “If I were to run a business, I would implement that into my business model to be as green and as energy-efficient as possible. You see videos of the plastic islands in the ocean and that’s affecting the planet, so (it’s important) in order to sustain it for future generations.”