RICHMOND, Va. -- Governor Ralph Northam signed an executive order on Tuesday that will launch the process of phasing out single-use plastics and polystyrene food containers throughout the state.
Beginning 120 days from Tuesday, Executive Order 77 stated all executive branch state agencies will be required to stop buying, selling and distributing disposable plastic bags, single-use plastic items, polystyrene food containers, as well as plastic straws and cutlery.
According to the National Resources Defense Council, single-use plastics are defined as goods that are made primarily from fossil fuel–based chemicals and are meant to be disposed of right after use -- such as bottles, wrappers, straws and bags.
The executive order also stated each state agency will be required to develop a Plastic Pollution Reduction Plan to eliminate the buying, selling and distribution of all non-medical, single-use plastic and polystyrene objects -- even those utilized for public health and safety use.
The plan includes phasing out all of the non-medical, single-use plastics by 25% in December of 2022, 50% by December of 2023 and so forth until reaching 100% reduction in December of 2025.
Eventually, Northam hopes the private sector will do the same, it said in the order.
According to the executive order, these plastic and polystyrene items pose a threat to fish and wildlife in the Chesapeake Bay.
Statistics in the order said volunteers collected more than 12,000 plastics bags and 13,000 plastic bottles, in addition to many other types of marine debris, from Virginia’s coastline in 2019 alone.
In a statement, Chesapeake Bay Foundation Virginia Executive Director Peggy Sanner said,
“We are grateful to the governor for his leadership in the effort to rid our waterways of this bane by phasing out single-use plastics in government agencies and requiring a searching review of how to reduce the vast quantities of waste that currently goes to landfills. This executive order ensures that Virginia will be a leader in this effort.”