Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin on Thursday ended what his office called a “burdensome” restriction on single-use plastics at state agencies, colleges and universities.
The Republican governor signed an executive order rolling back a 2021 order from Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam that instituted the prohibition on most disposable plastic bags, food service containers, water bottles, and straws and cutlery at executive branch agencies.
Youngkin's order, titled “recognizing the value of recycling and waste reduction,” also directed his administration to take several steps to encourage recycling at state agencies and in the state parks system.
It directed two state agencies to work with “large-scale suppliers of food” to identify ways to reduce food waste. And it directed a task force to examine ways to encourage new “recycling-related” businesses to locate in Virginia.
“We need to conserve our natural resources, reduce the amount of recyclable materials and waste that goes into landfills, and promote new clean energy jobs here in Virginia,” the order said.
The Coalition for Consumer Choices — a group representing businesses, retailers, manufacturers and others who opposed Northam's ban — announced its support for Youngkin's order. The group said Northam's order would have been costly and reduced choices for healthy and safely packaged food products.
Kate West, director of the Sierra Club Virginia Chapter, said Youngkin's decision to roll back the plastics ban would result in “irreversible damage.”
“Only a tiny fraction of the plastic created is recycled, with most becoming litter and plastic pollution in our waterways and landfills that disproportionately impact the health of vulnerable communities," West said in a statement.
Northam’s order, issued in March 2021, gave state agencies and higher education institutions 120 days to stop buying, selling or using certain single-use plastics, including foodservice items. And it called for a total phase-out of all nonmedical single-use plastics and expanded polystyrene objects by 2025.
Youngkin rolled out his executive order during an appearance Thursday morning at a recycling center in Chester.