University of Pittsburgh: Sign the Break Free From Plastic Pledge

University of Pittsburgh: Sign the Break Free From Plastic Pledge

178 have signed. Let’s get to 200!
Petition to
University of Pittsburgh

Why this petition matters

Started by Free the Planet


*If you are a current member of the Pitt system, please enter your Pitt email when Change requests an email address.*

We, the students, staff, faculty, and alumni of the University of Pittsburgh call on Chancellor Patrick Gallagher to commit to the permanent elimination of non-essential single-use plastics (SUP). In the 2018 Pitt Sustainability Plan Materials and Waste category, Pitt promised to reduce landfill use by 25% from 2017 levels by 2030 and promised to establish procedures, policies, practices, and educational tools to reduce the quantity and environmental impact of materials entering and exiting the University (1). These goals cannot be achieved without the elimination of single-use plastics, a major component of our University’s waste stream, and a major contributor to climate change 

Not only is it our global responsibility to eliminate single-use plastics, but it is the University of Pittsburgh’s responsibility to our campus community to protect its constituents from the cradle-to-grave dangers of plastics. The Ohio River Valley is targeted to become a petrochemical corridor for the production of single-use plastics causing pollution, cancer, other health defects, and climate impacts (2). By not taking a stand on this issue, the University of Pittsburgh falsely claims neutrality on the health, safety, and well-being of our community. 

While the University is committed to fully divest from private fossil fuel investments, the continued use of single-use plastic sustains the fossil fuel and petrochemical industry and fuels the climate catastrophe along with local environmental injustices. The University must take a stand against these corporations, which, in addition to eliminating single-use plastics, also includes not honoring these companies through building names such as the Chevron Science Center. From toxic environmental contamination to human rights (3) and worker protection violations, Chevron represents a corporate entity sacrificing the planet and people for profit (4). Similar to the renaming of the Pitt School of Public Health for racial justice (5), this change is necessary to send a message that Pitt does not stand with oppression and the silencing of democracy. 

By signing this pledge, we recognize the following to be true:

  • While individual actions to reduce the use of SUPs- like purchasing a reusable container- are important, systemic and institutional change is necessary to achieve true, lasting solutions to the plastic pollution crisis.
  • Plastic is made of fossil fuels, which fuel climate change at every stage of their life cycle from extraction to refinement to transportation to use and disposal.
  • The negative environmental effects of plastic production disproportionately affect different populations, particularly Black, Brown, Indigenous, poor, immigrant, and disabled communities in the U.S, as well as populations in the global south that are forced to accept our plastic waste.
  • Chemicals found in plastics have documented causality to an array of health impacts, including cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, auto-immune conditions, neurodegenerative diseases, and stroke (6).
  • Recycling is a false solution; only 9% of all the plastic waste ever produced has been recycled (7). Other false solutions include incineration and waste-to-energy.
  • The solution to the plastic pollution crisis has to be reducing the production and use of plastics and shifting the narrative away from single-use items in general.
    Educational institutions, especially those in regions with petrochemical corridors such as ours, play a key role in developing responsible citizens who will take the lead in bringing about the systems change necessary to end plastic pollution. Educational institutions are made to prepare young people for the future. We urge the University of Pittsburgh to support systems that are sustainable and ensure that these systems do not put that very future in jeopardy.

A commitment to end the use of single-use plastics and the glorification of the petrochemical and fossil fuel industry completely includes:

  • Implementing a large-scale compost system, including associated infrastructure and labor, that can accept compostable containers from dining facilities
  • Eliminating styrofoam and plastic dining containers alongside investment in reusable container programs and related infrastructure, such as water bottle filling stations
  • Creating a comprehensive procurement policy, including addendums to contracts for food, beverage, and supply purchasing regarding the use of alternative packaging
  • Acknowledging the necessity of certain single-use plastics in the Pitt community such as medical plastics, or straws, and other accommodations for people with disabilities 
  • Supporting necessary education around waste reduction and management, including during orientation for new students.
  • Supporting the Office of Sustainability, Student Office of Sustainability, Student Government Board, and student groups committed to carrying out and supporting this transition
  • Renaming the Chevron Science Center with input from the Pitt community

As students who are looking to a future that undoubtedly includes massive shifts as a result of climate change, we want to see the university we attend put our best interest first. We believe that at our University, where we commune to establish our futures, our future should be valued over convenience. We call on the University of Pittsburgh to pursue “Truth and Virtue” and be a leader in protecting our Keystone state and the people who inhabit it.


178 have signed. Let’s get to 200!