Close menu Resources for... William & Mary
William & Mary W&M menu close William & Mary

Single-Use Plastics

W&M Single-Use Plastic and Polystyrene Elimination Timeline


Single-use Plastic and Polystyrene Foodware
  • Items: Plates, cups, bowls, cutlery, hinged containers, straws, stirrers 
  • Timeline: All purchasing of these single-use plastic and styrofoam items has stopped and must be switched to alternatives. Current stocks of these items should be used up or donated through University Operations by June, 2022. Do not dispose of unused products, as this is contrary to reducing waste. 
  • Alternatives: Reusables or compostable products. There is an expectation that if using compostables they are then deposited in one of the multiple community compost bins on campus. Recyclables are not considered an alternative. If you are having trouble finding an alternative for purchase, please contact procurement.
  • Catering (small and large) and any America to Go deliveries must also comply with the order. Small local restaurants will be phasing in their alternatives and have until December 2022 to completely comply on university purchases.  
Disposable Plastic Shopping, Sandwich, and Storage Bags
  • Items: shopping, sandwich, and storage bags 
  • TimelineAll purchasing of these single-use plastic items has stopped and must be switched to alternatives. Current stocks should be used up or donated through University Operations by June, 2022. Do not dispose of unused products, as this is contrary to reducing waste. 
  • Alternatives: reusable (plastic bags with handles that are at least 4 mils are considered reusable), no bag, paper bags
Event Supplies
  • Items: Balloons, glitter/confetti, ribbon containing plastic, single-use plastic tablecloths, single-use plastic promotional items
  • Timeline: These items are not widely purchased at W&M, although some departments may have used them more than others. All purchasing of these single-use plastic items should cease by December 31, 2021. Remaining stocks should be used up or donated through University Operations by June, 2022. Do not dispose of unused products, as this is contrary to reducing waste.
  • Alternatives
    • Balloons, glitter/confetti: other decorations
    • Ribbon continaing plastic: natural fiber string
    • Single-use plastic tablecloths: cloth tablecloth, no tablecloth, clean and reuse plastic tablecloths
    • Single-use plastic promotional items: Please consider what people will realistically keep and use. It is also a good time to consider what the item is made of, the compensation and conditions of those who made it, and how useful the item will be. Contact [[licensing]] for more information. 
Single-use Plastic Water Bottles
  • Items: Single-use plastic water bottles up to a 1 liter, containers over 1 liter are considered multi-use and not part of the reduction for this order. 
  • Timeline: Immediate phase-out has begun. Unless hindered by supply chain challenges or deemed a contractual impediment by Auxiliary Services, the completion deadline is December 2022.
  • Alternatives:
    • Reusable bottles and filling stations, pitchers with glasses, and canned water.
    • Water coolers may be rented with appropriate funding approval.
    • Individual cases of water must be procured through America to Go or BuyW&M. Orders larger than 15 cases should be placed through BuyW&M. Orders less than 15 cases should be placed through ATG with W&M Catering. 
    • The expectation is that if an alternative to single-use plastic water bottles is available, it must be used.  
    • For more on water bottles and links to purchasing, please visit Water on the Procurement website. 
  • Other BottlesAlternatives and ways to reduce waste in other beverage bottles (ex: soda) are also part of the university’s approach. Recent installations of Soda Stream locations are one example of reduction efforts already underway.
Some Office Supplies
  • Items: Coffee pods, plastic envelopes, and bubble wrap
  • Timeline: These items should begin phasing to alternatives where possible. They will be more fully addessed in the future. 
  • Alternatives
    • Coffee pods: Refillable pods, recyclable pods, switch to plastic-free coffee making
    • Plastic envelopes: Boxes, paper envelopes
    • Bubble wrap: Shredded paper, reuse bubble wrap that was recieved in other packaging
Additional Items
  • All single-use gameday pom-poms: Athletics will be switching to alternatives such as rally towels
  • Some zip ties: reduce purchasing and use strategically 
  • Some single-use plastic food containers (ex: yogurt cups): Dining will be switching to non-plastic items and larger containers in some cases
  • Some bin liners: more on this later in the fall!
  • Research Materials: We highly encourage researchers to evaluate their practices for ways to reduce their single-use plastics use and waste. Items used by researchers to conduct normal business, such as office supplies and foodware, do fall within the university's plans outlined above.   
  • Multi-Use PlasticsLarger sized plastics or items that are used multiple times. We do recommend evaluating whether these items are serving the best purpose. Sometimes a multi-use plastic is a very appropriate item or serves a unique purpose, sometimes it is a piece of swag that someone is very unlikely to keep. Please choose wisely.  
  • Medical: Items truly needed for medical purposes, such as biohazard bags, are exempt from the order, as are those needed to maintain food safety.   
Alternatives to SINGLE-USE PLASTIC 




Guidance for Green Event Planners 

Green events reduce resource use, reuse what is possible, and recycle or compost 90% of the event’s waste. A green event organizer emphasizes resource stewardship and sustainable practices. Green events make a difference to environmental and organizational value, and demonstrate how gatherings can be held sustainably. To become a champion in hosting a successful Green Event, details are here

Frequently Asked Questions 
What is a Single-Use Plastic item?

"Single-use plastics" refers generally to a plastic item that is used once and immediately discarded, such as disposable personal plastic water bottles. Larger plastic bottles, such a 32-ounce ketchup bottle, are not considered single-use; however, due to the low recycling rate of plastic, the negative impacts of plastics on the environment and emerging markets for reusable alternatives, replacing larger, multiple-use plastic bottles should be considered as part of the agency’s longer-term solid waste reduction planning. 

How can I support the university’s effort to reduce plastic at campus? 

W&M believes the most effective way to reduce waste is not to create it in the first place. We recommend beginning to say ‘no’ to plastic and instead choose to skip, or reusable, compostable and recyclable items. 

How & Where to Recycle - 

How & Where to Compost -

If you have additional questions, please fill out this form.