CSU bans single-use plastics throughout campuses

By 2023, single-use plastics will be a thing of the past as the Cal State University (CSU) system has initiated a ban targeting specific plastics throughout all 23 state campuses. 

Focusing on a more sustainable future, the four single-use categories included in the ban are plastic straws, plastic carry-out bags, plastic water bottles and Styrofoam. 

The CSU maintains a strong commitment to sustainable practices as it collectively holds the largest student population for a public university. 

As the state of California is still working to reduce plastic waste, it provided a sense of leadership for the CSU to align with, stated Tamara Wallace, sustainability programs manager in the CSU Chancellor’s office.

Wallace said, “We are not the first but we are still at the forefront of this, and we champion the intentions of the policy which is to minimize our impact overall on the environment.”

Jan. 1 was the first deadline enforced by the CSU, which eliminated plastic straws and carryout bags by that date.

All straws on campus have been switched to either paper or compostable material.
(Taylor Johnson | The Poly Post)

While each campus is given flexibility in the alternatives they provide, all campuses must be compliant given their specific means. 

To gain awareness of what was to come, Cal Poly Pomona began showcasing its “skip the straw” signage throughout various dining areas to encourage students to get on board  with ditching single-use plastic. 

At the start of the current fall semester, all plastic straws on campus were changed to either paper or compostable straws. 

This past summer, there was a community effort with staff and students sampling various products, stated Arielle Torrez, marketing development coordinator for CPP Foundation Dining Services.

Torrez said the CSU system has been helpful in aiding this transition. 

“Their communicative efforts to us are definitely very focused on the idea of what we can do as a CSU [school] overall to better the environment and to just do our part as far as making our campus a better place overall.”

According to Torrez, students can purchase metal straws at all convenience stores, such as Saddles Cafe, for $1.50.

“I think that a lot of people are willing to pay a small amount extra to do something that they know is better for the environment,” Sustainability Coordinator Monika Kamboures said.

Metal straws are available to purchase at non-branded stores on campus, such as Saddles Cafe and International Grounds.

However, straws are not the only plastic item that CPP has already begun to phase out. 

In 2016, Styrofoam for food services was eliminated, which placed CPP a little ahead of the CSU changes. 

More recently, CPP Dining Services began getting rid of 20-fluid-ounce water bottles at Poly Fresh in the Bronco Student Center and are looking into adding more water refill stations. 

Reusable containers are also a new effort at the residential dining halls, such as Los Olivos, aiming to cut back on plastic carry-out food containers. 

With the new dining hall opening in 2020, Torrez stated they are making sure reusable containers are available to purchase for $5. 

Once the container has been purchased, students are able to drop off the container to get washed and receive a new one. 

In addition, plastic bags at dining services have been eliminated, and reusable totes are available at the Vista Market, according to Torrez. 

Cal State Los Angeles is one of the many CSU campuses that has also taken strong initiatives to comply with the system-wide ban. 

Outreach and education are vital in ensuring a smooth transition, stated Brad Haydel, energy and sustainability manager at Cal State L.A.

“With other bans across the state, I think it is helpful for the students to understand how important the issue is,” Haydel said. 

Everyone seems to agree that a strong component to this transition has been the communal efforts within the CSU. 

“The whole community needs to be involved,” Wallace said. “Every opportunity to raise awareness is critical to making sure the policy is successful.”

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