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ASU works to boost paper straw use, reduce single-use plastics

plastic straws
April 20, 2020

ASU is taking measures to replace plastic straws with paper ones in all retail locations by Earth Day 2020. 

“ASU is committed to a more sustainable and resilient future through our multifaceted approach and coordination across the university,” said Alana Levine, director of Zero Waste and Ground Services in Facilities Management.

In fall 2019, Engrained was the first ASU location to convert to paper straws. This spring, many food retail locations in the Memorial Union also began using paper straws.  

ASU has partnered with Aramark to make positive changes through operations and consumer awareness. Sun Devil Dining has begun to reduce single-use plastics, starting with straws and stirrers.  

“ASU, in partnership with Aramark, has an incredible opportunity to effect positive change through simple operational changes and consumer awareness,” said Kellie Cloud, executive director of Educational Outreach and Student Services.

beverage with a paper straw

Photo by Krista O’Brien/Sun Devil Dining

According to recent institutionwide waste characterization, 8.1% of ASU’s total waste is made up of nonrecoverable, single-use plastic items. Nearly 1.5 million pounds of annual waste could be diverted from landfills with appropriate measures.

The Zero Waste department and University Sustainability Practices also are working with other ASU partners to disrupt single-use items. Their efforts align with the university’s sustainability goals and vision of creating a circular resource system with a 90% waste diversion by 2025. 

ASU has made recent progress in reducing single-use plastic consumption in these ways:

• 1,682 Zero Waste cups sold at Green Games during the 2018 Sun Devil Athletics season attributed to 1,314 refills and diverted 3,000 single-use cups from the landfill.

• 124,000 straws and 54,000 lids were prevented from going to landfill during football home games in 2018.

• Raffle for Reuse at ASU staff barbecue encouraged staff to bring utensils, which led to 198 participants.

• Sun Devil Stadium suites converted to compostable palm leaf plates and bamboo utensils.

To increase efforts in reducing single-use items, ASU is seeking opportunities to educate consumers and influence behavior, which include:

• Bring-your-own giveaways and campaigns that focus on reusable items, such as cups, mugs, straws and utensils.  

• Increasing access to Green Bins — ASU’s composting program — for students, faculty, staff and the community.

• Increasing the number of drinking fountains with refillable bottle stations.

• A pilot program will feature bagless trash and recycling containers.

Visit the Zero Waste website to get involved. Read the Zero Waste Annual Report to see the progress made across the university. 

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