This year, Grounds sustainability groups are working to eliminate the use of single-use plastics, as required by Executive Order 77.
Signed by Virginia Governor Ralph Northam last March, the executive order aims to reduce plastic pollution and eliminate the need for new solid waste disposal facilities. The order instructed state agencies to immediately cease non-medical single-use plastic items by July, followed by a more in-depth inventory and a planned phase-out period for plastic items that does not were not part of the immediate shutdown.
The Office for Sustainability is focused on building a sustainability-focused, grassroots coalition that teaches people best practices and behavioral changes related to waste reduction, water conservation and water conservation. energy, food equity, community engagement and more. The office also works with student-led organizations such as Sustainability Advocates and Zero Waste Ambassadors. This year, the groups are focusing on the implementation of Decree 77.
The University has a working group on Executive Order 77 made up of more than 40 representatives of the U.Va. Dining Room, Virginia Athletics, U.Va. Health, Purchasing, Facilities Management, U.Va. Bookstore and Virginia Alumni Association.
The University’s elimination schedule first stopped the use of single-use plastic and polystyrene foodservice containers, including plates, mugs, bowls and hinged containers, as well as Single-use disposable plastic straws, disposable bags and cutlery including forks, spoons, knives and stirrers as of July 21. Single-use plastic water bottles have also been eliminated as much as possible by July 21 from dining rooms and Grounds restaurants.
While these items can be recyclable, it is best if they are replaced with non-plastic alternatives. The University is currently looking to increase the selection of reusable, compostable and recyclable options.
The University is currently working to move from phase one to phase two, which requires agencies to reduce their volume of single-use non-medical plastic and increase polystyrene items by 25% each year for the next four years. .
Another part of phase two includes the elimination of single-use trash bags by the end of 2025, which Andrea Trimble, director of sustainability, says will be one of the biggest challenges of the transition.
“There are no great alternatives at this point, so our focus is on minimization,” Trimble said.
In an email to Cavalier Daily, U.Va. Catering sustainability coordinator Caroline Baloga said compostable items are more expensive than plastic alternatives, such as single-use plastic cutlery and take-out containers. While meal plan prices will not increase, retail restaurants – like West Range and Rising Roll cafes – will increase their prices to reflect this difference.
“For example, plastic water bottles were previously available for purchase at our convenience stores and restaurant business for $ 1.99 and have now been replaced with aluminum water bottles for $ 2. , $ 99, “Baloga said.
Sustainability Coordinator Lela Garner focuses on involving students in projects by running the Office for Sustainabiity Student Employee Program. The program organizes student-centric engagement events and coordinates strategic partnerships with other student groups and departments in the field. The office also aims to provide students with a wealth of engagement opportunities through the University’s three sustainability leadership programs, service learning events and various educational workshops.
The Sustainability Advocates program works with the Office for Sustainability to carry out projects to increase sustainability practices on the ground. The program also meets every semester to decide on a general theme where students can carry out projects in different subgroups. Most of the semester is spent planning the project, whether it’s a food drive or a speaker event. This semester the theme is the University’s 2030 Sustainable Development Plan and students are divided into groups of five focusing on water, waste, nitrogen, food, research, equity, l teaching and the carbon neutral subgroup.
Julianne Feuchter, Executive Director of Sustainability Advocates and second-year college student, facilitates the group’s various projects. Over the past year, Feuchter has contributed to projects by hosting a series of conferences on the topic of climate policy and promoting vegan food by distributing leaflets.
Feuchter also said that stores in the field are using more reusable paper bags and that the University is working to increase the number of publicly accessible compost bins so that it is easier for people to throw away their bags. waste in the correct bins. This reduces the chances of people throwing garbage in the wrong bins for convenience and helps ensure that the bins are clean before they are sent to landfill.
The school has implemented some changes such as offering a “larger selection of more compostable items in cafeterias, gyms and warehouses,” Feuchter said.
To account for an increase in compostable materials such as take-out food containers, cutlery and napkins, Trimble said the university will also increase its composting infrastructure. In 2008, the University started using composting services. Composting diverts materials from landfills and allows them to provide nutrients to the soil.
Zero Waste Ambassadors is another sustainability group on Grounds that dedicates time to properly sorting compost bins and minimizing food waste. They also work with the office to implement field projects. Formed in February this year, the group helped staff at the waste stations in the dining room tents at Observatory Hill to capture as much of the compostable material as possible. They work alongside the Office for Sustainability to bring projects to fruition. Many students, like Feuchter, are involved in both.
Sustainability Program Director Jesse Warren said composting has declined due to the impacts of the pandemic as students were sent home in March 2020 and some chose not to live in Charlottesville the year last.
Black Bear Composting currently collects food waste, paper and other discarded materials from the University. In 2020, the company collected 218.16 tonnes of compost from the University, up from 483.75 tonnes in 2019.
Warren said he’s not sure what impact the plastic ban will have on the amount of compost this year, as the semester is still in progress.
“The amount of compostable material will increase dramatically, so the composting infrastructure will increase – bins and signage – throughout the park,” Trimble said. “We will need everyone’s help to ensure that the composting bins are not contaminated – to ensure that only compostable material enters these bins. “
Since last year, the refectories have only offered compostable containers and reusable boxes.