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The University Of California Is Taking The Lead On Phasing Out Single-Use Plastics

Thin single-use plastic bags, like this one in Mission Valley, litter roadsid...

Photo by Erik Anderson

Above: Thin single-use plastic bags, like this one in Mission Valley, litter roadsides all around San Diego County on July 8, 2020.

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Legislation to reduce single-use plastics failed to pass the California Legislature this year, but the University of California has committed to phasing out single use plastics on its 10 campuses in the next ten years.

Aired: September 8, 2020 | Transcript

Legislation to reduce single use plastics failed to pass the California Legislature this year, but the University of California has committed to phasing out single use plastics on its 10 campuses in the next ten years.

Each year, 300 million tons of plastic is produced globally and about 50 percent of that is used once and then thrown away. More than 90 percent of plastic is not recycled but goes into landfills or pollutes waterways. Plastic lasts for hundreds of years and as it breaks up, turns into microplastics that permeate the environment.

Veronica Michels, UC San Diego’s student organizer for the California Public Interest Research Group, a non-profit that lobbies for pro-environment change, said there is evidence to suggest that on average, an individual will consume about a credit card’s worth of microplastics every week.

Under UC’s plan, single-use knives, forks and straws will be phased out on campuses by July 2021, plates, cups and clam-shell containers will be phased out by July 2022 and single-use plastic beverage bottles by Jan 2023.

Michels said some UC campuses have already begun making innovative change to reduce dependence on single-use plastics. For example UC Riverside uses reusable plastic containers for ordering meals to go, which can be returned to a vending machine, sanitized and used again. She said scientists at UC San Diego have developed flip flops out of algae that is biodegradable, and UC campuses will be good venues to develop other alternatives to single use plastics.

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