Zero Waste

Nothing we use for a few minutes should threaten our health and pollute our future for hundreds of years.

Every day, people throw away tons of plastic “stuff”—cups, plates, bags, containers, forks, knives, spoons and more. All of this waste not only clogs our landfills, trash our parks, and litters our streets, but it also washes into our rivers and oceans, where it can harm wildlife.
Recycling certainly can help mitigate the problem. But unfortunately, of the millions of tons of plastic we produce every year, most are currently not recyclable, and we produce vastly more waste than our recycling infrastructure can handle. As a society, we need to stop creating enormous quantities of unnecessary waste in the first place, rather than focus only on recycling and re-using waste after the fact.
The good news is that we have lots of alternatives to single-use plastic items that would prevent needless harm to the environment.

Victories for Zero Waste

ConnPIRG worked to pass the original Bottle Bill back in 1978 to reduce the litter caused by beer and soda containers. It was updated in 2009 to include water bottles, and today, 70% of containers covered under the Bottle Bill are recycled. ConnPIRG has also been instrumental in advocating to shut down Connecticut’s oldest and dirtiest power plants.

In collaboration with our friends at MASSPIRG, we launched a campaign to ask Dunkin Donuts to phase out their use of their foam cup. After about 1 year of petitions, calls to headquarters and social media actions- Dunkin’ made a global commitment to stop using foam by 2020!

Students at UConn led the effort on campus to ban plastic bags statewide starting locally with the Solid Waste Advisory Committee on an initiative to ban single-use plastic bags by building student support and testifying at the Town Council to pass the ban in Mansfield 2019. As well as petitioning UConn Dining Services to ban plastic bags in the fall of 2018, which successfully led to the banning of plastic bags in the student union beginning of 2019.  

Then with collaboration with our chapter at Trinity College in spring 2019, we collected over 3,000 petitions and held a student-run lobby day to ban plastic bags statewide. With our efforts and others around the state, the ban passed and will go into effect on June 30, 2021, with a 10 cent tax on single-use plastic bags starting August 1, 2019. 

Current Work

Going off the momentum of our win, we set out to ban another harmful single-use plastic polystyrene or foam. We again worked locally gathering thousands of petitions before shifting to a statewide legislative effort to get polystyrene banned in takeout containers and school lunch trays. PIRG students testified in support of the bill in front of legislators in Hartford, generated hundreds of social media actions that garnered attention from legislators, and we even hosted a virtual lobby day on campus to collect photo petitions to send legislators in support of a foam ban.