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Getting Re-used to it

UC Davis phasing out use of single-use plastics

UC Davis is embarking on a transformative journey to phase out the purchase and use of single-use plastics from our food service establishments and replace them with reusable or locally compostable alternatives. In support of this bold move towards a greener future, UC Davis Sustainability has joined forces with Staff Assembly and the Thank Goodness for Staff, or TGFS, picnic to champion the cause of zero waste. 

At TGFS, participants will notice the presence of water trucks, ready to serve those embracing eco-friendly practices by bringing their own reusable drink bottles and five designated zero waste zones staffed with guides to help educate attendees about proper waste sorting.

UC Davis Sustainability strategically chose TGFS as a focal point for this initiative due to the high concentration of decision-makers and purchasers in attendance.

"Achieving zero waste at a large-scale event like TGFS has presented its challenges,” said Scott Loewen-Towner, coordinator for UC Davis Staff Assembly. “The collaboration with UC Davis Sustainability and the Arboretum and Public Garden staff this year has been instrumental toward making progress."

According to organizers, the event provides a prime opportunity to reinvigorate and educate attendees about the critical importance of limiting plastics where possible and improving the campus’s zero waste progress.

“The aim is to inspire a collective commitment to avoiding single-use plastic purchases among those who influence procurement decisions on campus,” said Carla Fresquez, interim director of UC Davis Sustainability. 

Despite the cost advantage of plastics over fiber compostables for most products, UC Davis Sustainability emphasizes the hidden costs of single-use plastics.

“Plastics, derived from petroleum, contribute significantly to climate change throughout their lifecycle, from production to disposal,” said Kelli O’Day, assessment program manager for UC Davis Sustainability. “Improperly discarded plastics pose a persistent threat, polluting our oceans and contaminating ecosystems, including risks to human health and wildlife.”

Key provisions of the University of California's Sustainable Practices Policy regarding single-use plastics includes:

  • Prohibiting of plastic bag distribution in campus retail and foodservice establishments by  Jan. 1, 2021 (Completed)
  • Replacing single-use plastic beverage bottles with non-plastic alternatives in foodservice facilities by Jan. 1, 2024. (In progress)
  • Replacement of disposable single-use plastic foodware items and accessories with reusables or locally compostable alternatives by July 1, 2024. (In progress)
  • Providing reusable foodware options for food consumed on-site by July 1, 2024.  (In progress)

This policy aligns with the University's zero waste goals and reflects a global recognition of the environmental crisis posed by single-use plastics. UC Davis is not only embracing sustainability within its own operations but also advocating for systemic change in how products are sourced, used, and disposed of across its campus community.

While the teams involved in enacting this change recognize that UC Davis has a long way to go to meet these goals, they are committed to working with campus partners to help implement the policy. For more information, visit UC Davis Sustainability’s website to browse single-use plastic FAQs and download the recently revised University of California’s Sustainable Practices Policy.