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article imageVirginia governor signs order phasing out single-use plastics

By Karen Graham     Mar 28, 2021 in Environment
Richmond - Virginia Governor Ralph Northam signed Execute Order 77 on Tuesday, putting Virginia on a path to eliminate most single-use plastics at state agencies, colleges, and universities.
The order comes the same week that Northam signed a law banning polystyrene food containers in the state, as the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported.
"From landmark investments in renewable energy to bold action to tackle the climate crisis, Virginia is at the forefront of innovative efforts to protect our environment, and addressing the problem of plastic pollution is an important part of this work," Northam said in a press release announcing the order.
“As a large producer of solid waste, the Commonwealth must lead by example and transition away from single-use disposable plastics to create a cleaner, more sustainable future for all Virginians.”
The Governor’s executive order requires all executive branch state agencies, including state institutions of higher education to discontinue buying, selling, or distributing items such as disposable plastic bags, single-use plastic, and polystyrene food service containers, plastic straws, and cutlery, and single-use plastic water bottles within 120 days, reports CBS19 News.
Additionally, state agencies will need to submit plans for phasing out all other non-medical single-use plastics by 2025. There will be short-term exceptions for plastics necessary for medical or public safety uses as well as long-term exceptions for medical or emergency plastics.
Hundreds of millions of tonnes of plastic are produced every year  with much of it ending up in land...
Hundreds of millions of tonnes of plastic are produced every year, with much of it ending up in landfill or polluting the seas and beaches
JOSEPH EID, AFP
"Plastic pollution has emerged as one of the most challenging environmental problems of our lifetime, with devastating impacts on our oceans and coasts, and many questions about human health effects,” said Secretary of Natural Resources Matthew J. Strickler. “Decades of experience have shown us that breaking our plastic addiction is the only truly effective pollution reduction strategy.”
Phase-out of all polystyrene food containers
Besides Executive Order 77, Governor Northam also signed into law House Bill 533, which mandates the phase-out of all polystyrene food containers by 2025. Virginia now joins Maine, Maryland, and Vermont in passing such a measure. According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, New York state's ban on polystyrene food containers goes into effect in 2022.
"Our leaders have chosen to put the planet over plastic," said Elly Boehmer, state director of Environment Virginia, in a statement responding to the bill's signing.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), less than nine percent of plastics are recycled, while 91 percent end up in landfills or incinerators. In Virginia, specifically, the amount of solid waste either burned or landfilled has increased from two million to almost 23 million tons a year since 2011. Of that amount, 18.5 percent was plastics.
More about Governor Ralph Northam, singleuse plastics, Executive order, Environment, Pollution
 
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