SUNY Chancellor King Announces Phase Out of Single-Use Plastics Across SUNY System

March 5, 2024

Phase Out Will Occur Over Several Years at System Administration and on all SUNY Campuses

Policy Builds on Legislation Signed by Governor Kathy Hochul to Mitigate the Impact of Single-Use Plastics on SUNY and CUNY Campuses

Albany, NY – State University of New York Chancellor John B. King, Jr. today announced a uniform policy across the SUNY System to phase out the usage of single-use plastics. The policy will ensure SUNY advances real environmental progress while staying in step with groundbreaking legislation signed by Governor Kathy Hochul encouraging SUNY and CUNY campuses to phase out single-use plastics. 

"Plastics are all around us, and used in so many everyday items from the water bottle you drink from at the gym to the takeout container that holds your lunch. Some of our campuses, such as SUNY ESF and SUNY New Paltz, have taken significant steps over the past few years to eliminate the impact of plastics, including single-use plastics such as water and other beverage bottles, on their campuses," said SUNY Chancellor King. "SUNY’s direct action to make our operations more sustainable complements our research and education to create a better future for all."

Assemblymember Patricia Fahy said, "Over one million plastic water bottles are purchased every minute in the United States, for example, yet just 30% of discarded, single-use plastic bottles are ever properly recycled. Our national and global plastic pollution crisis is directly tied to the climate crisis and driven by a reliance on single-use plastics; with plastic production continuing to increase its share of total global carbon emissions each year, and the weighted amount of plastic in our oceans surpassing the total amount of fish. As a longtime advocate in the fight to combat climate change, protect our natural environment and resources, and reduce our plastic carbon and waste footprint, I commend Chancellor King and SUNY for taking strong action on single-use plastics and leading once again."

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos said, "New York continues to be a national leader on waste reduction, and I applaud SUNY Chancellor King for his leadership in helping to end the scourge of single-use plastics across the SUNY system. DEC encourages New Yorkers to transition to reusable items whenever and wherever possible and to use common-sense precautions to keep reusable items clean and safe for repeat use."

In 2022, the SUNY Board of Trustees passed a resolution to form the Task Force on the Elimination of Single-Use Plastics at SUNY. The Task Force was charged with developing an action plan, recommended timeline, and associated policies for the elimination of single-use plastics on all SUNY campuses, and included faculty, staff, and students across SUNY institutions with representation from facilities, hospital operations, auxiliary services, and academics.

The policy details a staged elimination of single-use plastics designed to take advantage of the continued development of new products and processes for a future plastic-free environment. Items covered in the policy include bags, beverage bottles, food service products, utensils, plastic wrap, and packaging films.

This policy will further accelerate SUNY's leadership on sustainability and climate action. SUNY is switching to clean energy, promoting green workforce development programs, spurring research and innovation on climate issues, and encouraging applied learning so that students are prepared for careers in sustainability.

As part of SUNY’s roll-out of the new Single-Use Plastics policy, SUNY is working with the SustainChain public service platform to create a plastics-free solutions hub with access to best-in-class resources on how to achieve this new requirement. World-renowned experts will be sharing their learnings and solution sets for SUNY to leverage.

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, in 2018, over 35 million tons of plastics were produced in the U.S. with only 8.7% of those plastics recycled.

SUNY Chief Sustainability Officer and Executive Director of Climate Action Carter Strickland said, "Research has shown plastics have a significant, long-lasting, and damaging impact on the environment and public health, which is why SUNY is taking this holistic approach to eliminate the usage of single-use plastics. More students than ever are interested in combating the effects of climate change in their lives and, eventually, in their careers. At SUNY, students can translate research and theory into action, as our colleges expand sustainability programs."

President of the SUNY Axillary Services Association (SASA) Virginia Geer-Mentry said, "SUNY has been a great partner with SASA throughout this process as together we work to make the auxiliary services operations more sustainable. SASA recognizes the significant environmental impact of plastic waste and is committed to doing its part to reduce the use of plastics and where still required to assure proper handling and recycling."

New York State's Nation-Leading Climate Plan

New York State's climate agenda calls for an orderly and just transition that creates family-sustaining jobs, continues to foster a green economy across all sectors and ensures that at least 35 percent, with a goal of 40 percent, of the benefits of clean energy investments are directed to disadvantaged communities. Guided by some of the nation’s most aggressive climate and clean energy initiatives, New York is advancing a suite of efforts – including the New York Cap-and-Invest program (NYCI) and other complementary policies – to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent by 2030 and 85 percent by 2050 from 1990 levels. New York is also on a path to achieving a zero-emission electricity sector by 2040, including 70 percent renewable energy generation by 2030, and economywide carbon neutrality by mid-century. A cornerstone of this transition is New York's unprecedented clean energy investments, including more than $40 billion in 64 large-scale renewable and transmission projects across the State, $6.8 billion to reduce building emissions, $3.3 billion to scale up solar, nearly $3 billion for clean transportation initiatives and over $2 billion in NY Green Bank commitments. These and other investments are supporting more than 170,000 jobs in New York’s clean energy sector as of 2022 and over 3,000 percent growth in the distributed solar sector since 2011. To reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve air quality, New York also adopted zero-emission vehicle regulations, including requiring all new passenger cars and light-duty trucks sold in the State be zero emission by 2035. Partnerships are continuing to advance New York’s climate action with more than 400 registered and more than 130 certified Climate Smart Communities, nearly 500 Clean Energy Communities, and the State’s largest community air monitoring initiative in 10 disadvantaged communities across the State to help target air pollution and combat climate change.

About the State University of New York
The State University of New York, which celebrates its 75th anniversary this year, is the largest comprehensive system of higher education in the United States, and more than 95 percent of all New Yorkers live within 30 miles of any one of SUNY’s 64 colleges and universities. Across the system, SUNY has four academic health centers, five hospitals, four medical schools, two dental schools, a law school, the country’s oldest school of maritime, the state’s only college of optometry, and manages one US Department of Energy National Laboratory. In total, SUNY serves about 1.4 million students amongst its entire portfolio of credit- and non-credit-bearing courses and programs, continuing education, and community outreach programs. SUNY oversees nearly a quarter of academic research in New York. Research expenditures system-wide are nearly $1.1 billion in fiscal year 2022, including significant contributions from students and faculty. There are more than three million SUNY alumni worldwide, and one in three New Yorkers with a college degree is a SUNY alum. To learn more about how SUNY creates opportunities, visit suny.edu.


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