Eckerd College to ban purchase of nonessential single-use plastic

Eckerd College President Donald R. Eastman III signs a "Break Free from Plastic" Pledge on Nov. 5. Beginning Jan. 1, 2020, the college will ban purchase of single-use plastic using college funds.

ST. PETERSBURG — Eckerd College President Donald R. Eastman III signed a pledge Nov. 5 that will prohibit the purchase of most nonessential single-use plastics using college funds.

The initiative was spearheaded by Eckerd College Reduce Single-Use, a two-year research project funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Marine Debris Program, in collaboration with students affiliated with the Post-Landfill Action Network’s Break Free from Plastic campaign.

The Break Free from Plastic–Eckerd College Pledge will be the first and most stringent campus-wide purchasing guideline to be enacted in the nation, according to a press release. Beginning Jan. 1, 2020, faculty, staff and students will be prohibited from using any of the college budget to buy nonessential, single-use plastics such as single-serve beverage bottles, plates, utensils, cups, shopping bags, hot-beverage packets in plastic, balloons, glow sticks, glitter, plastic shipping and packing materials or name tags coated or wrapped in plastic.

Scientific research/teaching needs and health/safety essentials still can be procured, according to the pledge. Further, the institution vows to work with third-party vendors to encourage a reduction in their nonessential plastics provided on campus and to invest in education and resources to help reduce plastic consumption on Eckerd’s campus and in neighboring communities.

Institutional prohibitions help change consumer attitudes, according to the data collected during Eckerd’s first year of the Reduce Single-Use project.

“Showing consumers an alternative is a good way to start the conversation; however, it has not proved to be as effective as removing the option to rely on a single-use plastic item,” said Amy Siuda, Ph.D., an assistant professor of marine science at Eckerd and one of the principal investigators of the Reduce Single-Use project. “By pledging not to purchase many of the plastic items that end up polluting our environment, Eckerd College is showing other schools and businesses a path to a more sustainable future.”