VCCS working on plan to phase out single-use plastics

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Responding to Executive Order 77 (EO77) from Governor Ralph Northam, Virginia’s Community Colleges are working on plans to eliminate most single-use plastics on campus, impose a near-term ban on several common, but unnecessary disposable plastics, and phase out of other items by 2025.

“The system office will report in one document to the State Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) on behalf of all our colleges; colleges do not have to provide individual reports to DEQ,” said Craig Herndon, VCCS senior vice-chancellor for administration, finance & technology, administrative services.  Herndon pulled together a team focused on the project, which also is reviewing alternatives to items that are to be phased out.  We’ll work with Shared Services Center (SSC) to find sources for these alternatives,” added Herndon.

Joining Herndon on the team are Bert Jones, VCCS associate vice-chancellor for facilities management services; Shelley Bains, VCCS capital outlay program manager; Aaron Stevenson, Shared Services Center; Cynthia Page, Blue Ridge Community College; Eve Belote, Eastern Shore Community College, and Rob Johnson, Northern Virginia Community College.

SSC has reviewed contracts managed by SSC to identify those that involve single use plastics, and is now working to issue contract modifications.

Campus vendors will be contacted by Shared Services or individual colleges to work together to meet the requirements of EO77. Contracts for services such as custodial, dining, waste removal, etc. may require negotiation to include modifications to follow EO77 guidelines.

DEQ documents related to the plastics ban are available here.

Listed below are some of the important points for our colleges to be aware of in the implementation of EO77:

  • Colleges should continue to use their inventory of single use plastics that are on the cessation list until those items are depleted and not simply dispose of them.
  • Although colleges should stop purchasing single use plastics immediately, after July 21, colleges may not purchase any more single use plastics that are on the cessation list. There is an exception for medical programs and labs (biology, chemistry, automotive, etc.). Employees who are responsible for medical programs and labs should look for replacement items when feasible.
  • Colleges cannot distribute or use single use plastics on the cessation list once their current inventory is depleted. These are alternatives recommended by DEQ: Alternatives to single use water bottles include refillable bottles, paper cups, or aluminum containers.  Reusable straws and paper straws are acceptable. A note: employees and students may bring their own single use plastics to campus, however colleges should encourage other alternatives.

Alternatives to polystyrene products include paper plates, paper cups, compostable clamshells, etc.

Alternatives to plastic cutlery include reusable cutlery or compostable cutlery. If compostable cutlery is selected as an alternative, the college must have a composting plan.  Another alternative for plastic cutlery is for the colleges to provide reusable cutlery to employees (& students?) to be used at campus events.

More information will be forthcoming as updates are released from DEQ. Please feel free to send questions to


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