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Executive Summary Another Step toward Sustainability: Reducing Disposable Bag Usage at Washington University in St.

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Overview In recent years, research has established a thorough understanding of the severe environmental consequences of the production and disposal of paper and plastic bags. Recognizing the harm caused by their use, many cities have begun to regulate their distribution. However, no such efforts have been taken by U.S. colleges or universities unless prompted by existing municipal rules. In order to fulfill its role as an institution dedicated to environmental sustainability, Washington University must examine opportunities for reducing campus disposable bag usage. Environmental Impacts of Disposable Bag Usage Both the production and disposal of plastic and paper bags damage the environment. The use of large amounts of nonrenewable resources in the plastic bag manufacturing process contributes to air pollution and climate change. Moreover, plastic bags are a main source of water pollution, and their inability to biodegrade increases the toxicity of land and oceans. Paper bag production affects the climate both by producing greenhouse gases and by consuming 14 million trees annually (which otherwise would have worked to remove atmospheric CO2). Although most paper bags are compostable and can be recycled, the vast majority still end up in landfills. Disposable Bag Usage at Washington University in St Louis The three major distributors of disposable bags on the Danforth campus are the Bon Appetit Management Company (BAMCO), the Womens Society of Washington University, and the Follett Corporation. BAMCO purchases roughly 200,000 non-recyclable plastic bags each year for use at the South 40s Paws & Go and the Villages Millbrook Market. The Womens Society runs Bear Necessities, which hands out approximately 6,000 recyclable plastic bags and 50 paper bags every year. Finally, WUSTLs Campus Store, managed by the Follett Corporation, estimates that 65,000 recyclable plastic bags will be distributed during the 2012-2013 school year. Overall, Washington University consumes approximately 271,000 plastic bags and 50 paper bags annually. Case Studies: Municipal Efforts to Curb Disposable Bag Usage Three case studies of municipal disposable bag use reduction efforts are outlined in this executive summarys corresponding report. In addition to describing each municipalitys resulting policy in-depth, these studies also note important considerations that must be made when developing potential bag use reduction strategies. Conclusions and Recommendations Although there are many compelling reasons to work to reduce disposable bag usage at Washington University, it is clear that such strategies should only be developed and implemented after understanding the interests of all stakeholders (a stakeholder analysis is presented in this summarys corresponding report). In the report, it was recommended that the WUSTL community create a Bag Use Reduction Committee comprised of representatives from relevant stakeholder groups in order to review campus bag use policies. This Committee was recently established, and it will be meeting once-monthly during the 2012-2013 school year to explore this issue. It is advised that the Committee evaluate the necessity of a plastic bag ban, as well as other supplementary measures (including, but not limited to, developing a formal process for evaluating campus bag usage, implementing a paper bag use fee, increasing purchasing access to inexpensive reusable bags, and/or actively encouraging reusable bag use). It is important to note that some may see it necessary only to encourage changes disposable bag use practices; however, the aforementioned case studies highlight that such action would prove far less effective than substantive campus policy changes that have widespread community support.