Single-Use Plastics Policy

Policy Summary

The George Washington University is committed to eliminating single-use plastics on GW property to the greatest extent possible. This policy is rooted in GW values and service priorities, particularly the safety and care of the GW Community and the wider community of which we are part.  This policy, along with the GW Roadmap to Zero Waste and the GW Ecosystems Enhancement Strategy, contribute to the university’s sustainability vision and mission for healthy ecosystems.

This policy informs members of the GW Community about the university’s restrictions and guidance regarding single-use plastics, and of our shared responsibility in the elimination of single-use plastics on GW property. 

Related Regulations

This policy is consistent with District of Columbia regulations regarding the use and disposal of some categories of single-use plastic bags, single-use straws and stirrers, and styrofoam.

Who is Governed by this Policy 

  • Faculty, students, staff and contractors ("GW Community").


The university has committed to eliminating all single-use plastics at GW.  This commitment includes all non-essential, non-compostable, single-use plastics with available alternatives. Eliminating single-use plastics on campus will require individual and collective action.  The purpose of this policy is to set the expectations for the GW Community in order to meet this commitment.

The following are the University’s expectations with respect to single-use plastics:

Individuals in the GW Community should take all reasonable efforts to avoid using single-use plastics on GW property where alternatives are available. The university expects individuals in the GW Community to contribute to the elimination of single-use plastics on GW property and comply with this policy to the greatest extent possible.  Additionally, where appropriate, the GW Community should also inform their visitors of the policy and encourage visitors to comply.

Single-use plastic items should not be procured using university funds for use in university operations and activities held on GW property (owned or leased) where alternatives are available. Purchases of single-use plastics for use in university operations and activities held on GW property (owned or leased) are also excluded from university reimbursement. The GW Single-use Plastics Elimination Guide provides information regarding options and alternatives to single-use plastics. In addition, the GW Green Event and Catering Guide provides information for planning events on GW property, and the GW Green Office Network is a resource to identify opportunities to eliminate single-use plastics in office settings.

Notwithstanding the foregoing, there may be situations where alternatives to single-use plastics may be prohibitive due to circumstance or situational challenges.  Exceptions may include purchases for university events hosted off-site, emergency situations, clinical practices, or university research.


Non-compostable: Products that cannot be accepted by available industrial composting facilities. Compostable products must be BPI-certified. 

Non-essential: Disposable, not absolutely necessary items with available alternatives.

Single-use plastics: A non-essential, non-compostable disposable plastic product with an intended lifespan of one use, e.g., one meal, one drink, or disposed of within 24 hours. This includes but is not limited to: 

  • single-use plastic utensils;
  • single-use plastic beverage bottles;
  • single-use plastic straws & stirrers;
  • single-use plastic food service ware (cups, plates, bowls, trays, sauce dishes, lids);
  • single-use plastic clamshells & to-go containers; all polystyrene (Styrofoam™ and similar) food service products;
  • single-use plastic-lined containers (coffee cups, soup bowls, snack boats, boxed beverages);
  • single-use plastic-wrapped condiments, sauces, and seasonings (butter, jelly, peanut butter, creamers, sugars, salt, pepper);
  • Individually-packaged items with bulk alternatives (napkins, oyster crackers; individually wrapped fresh baked goods, mints, toothpicks);
  • single-use hot beverage packets unnecessarily packaged in plastic (K-Cups, plastic-wrapped tea bags);
  • Plastic shopping bags;
  • Plastic-wrapped giveaways; and
  • Plastic layered sachets (small plastic packages containing small amounts of consumer goods such as condiments, detergents, or shampoos).


Related Information


Contact Phone Number Email Address
Office of Sustainability 202-994-7336 [email protected]


Responsible University Official: Assistant Vice President for University Resilience
Responsible Office: Office of Sustainability

Noncompliance with this policy can be reported through this website.