Alison Hewitt/UCLA
ucla plastic

UCLA aims to eliminate single-use plastics from campus food service

March 18, 2020
Policy calls for officially phasing out plastic utensils, cup lids, bowls, plastic bags and similar “food accessory” items.

UCLA is developing a policy that calls for removing environmentally harmful single-use plastics from campus food service.

The draft single-use plastics policy aims to reduce the university’s impact on the environment and to encourage similar changes in the region.

The university says in a news release that the first phase of the policy is scheduled to begin in July, when it plans to officially phase out plastic utensils, cup lids, bowls, plastic bags and similar “food accessory” items.

Locally compostable or reusable alternatives would be provided only on request, and would shift over time to only reusable alternatives for all dine-in eaters.

The policy is envisioned as ultimately including not only sit-down and take-out restaurants at UCLA, but also dining halls, events and even departmental meetings. Everything from conferences, panel discussions and lectures to catered meetings, rallies and concerts would be covered.

The draft policy envisions a path to ultimately eliminate single-use plastic water bottles on campus and increase water-refilling hydration stations.

“UCLA is part of the larger culture shift moving away from wishful recycling,” said Nurit Katz, the university’s chief sustainability officer. “Only a small percentage of plastic is successfully recycled despite decades of efforts nationwide and globally. By getting rid of single-use plastics, we will make the planet a little healthier, and help Bruins approach their goal of zero waste.”

The UCLA campus has already eliminated plastic foam and many single-use plastics in food service, and has shifted almost entirely to locally compostable flatware and to-go food service items.

The changes won’t be easy, but UCLA sustainability staff say the campus is ready. They have added hundreds of compost bins on campus, including in washrooms for paper towel waste.

Years of campus “trash talks,” waste audits and awareness campaigns have prepared many students, and the proposed policy change will include more outreach, said Kikei Wong, UCLA zero waste coordinator.

“It will be challenging,” Wong acknowledged. “There are so many single-use plastics everywhere in our lives that we depend on for convenience, but for the planet, this is the next step that we have to take.”

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