Circular Economy and Zero Waste Task Force

Promoting, supporting, and implementing carbon sinks and waste diversion – emphasizing closed-loop systems – to achieve “zero waste,” a 90% or greater diversion rate away from incineration or trash.

In response to Governor Ralph Northam’s Executive Order Seventy-Seven (EO 77) “Virginia Leading by Example to Reduce Plastic Pollution and Solid Waste,” the Mason Sustainability Council (MSC) launched the Circular Economy and Zero Waste (CEZW) Task Force in the spring of 2021. EO 77 mandates solid waste reduction and the elimination of single-use plastics and polystyrene at all state executive branch state agencies, which includes Mason.

Through the efforts of the CEZW Task Force and the tireless work of countless stakeholders, including institutional partners and vendors, Mason will eliminate single-use plastics and polystyrene on the following timeline, ensuring institutional compliance with EO 77.

Mason’s Single-Use Plastics and Polystyrene Elimination Timeline

  • Bags:
    • Shopping and small (e.g., sandwich) bags were eliminated in July 2021
    • Small bin liners by December 2022 (extension requested – 100% elimination by December 2022, pending regulatory approval)
    • Large bin liners by 2025 (health and safety extension requested, pending regulatory approval)
  • Straws:
    • All straws were eliminated in July 2021 (compostable alternatives will be available upon request)
  • Bottles:
    • Water bottles were eliminated in July 2021
    • All plastic bottles by 2025, with very limited potential exemptions or extensions for lines not able to be offered in aluminum cans or alternative means (e.g., fountain or other refill options, glass, boxes, etc.), pending regulatory approval.
  • Food Service Items (silverware, cups, etc.):
    • All food service items were eliminated in July 2021
  • Other Plastics and Polystyrene (balloons, glitter, coffee pods, packing material, etc.):
    • All other plastics and polystyrene by 2025 on a phase-out timeline, which includes percentage benchmarks each year

The CEZW Task Force is working to identify, create, and pilot partnerships to support the adoption of better alternatives to single-use plastics and, wherever possible, replacing single-use items with durable reusables, which are the best alternatives to single-use items.

As of July 2021, a few of the CEZW Task Force’s achievements were implemented in Mason’s operations.

  • Along with free options from the tap, water fountains, and refill stations, single-use water for sale is now only available in aluminum cans at George Mason University as of July 2021. Mason worked with Coca-Cola to confirm the elimination of all plastic bottles by 2025, with very limited potential exemptions or extensions for lines not able to be offered in aluminum cans or alternative means (e.g., fountain or other refill options, glass, boxes, etc.), pending regulatory approval.
  • Plastic shopping bags were eliminated in July 2021 and compostable foodservice items (compostable in our industrial composting facility) replaced all single-use plastic and polystyrene items as of July 2021.

Resources for the Mason Community

Office Hours

The CEZW Task Force is hosting open office hours to support Mason stakeholders and the community during this transition. Register for any of the Zoom open office hours sessions by clicking here.

Join the open office hours to ask questions, receive guidance and support, and review useful resources. You are encouraged to register and attend as many of the sessions as you would like. All times are Eastern Daylight Time.

  • September 8, 2021, at 11 a.m.
  • September 15, 2021, at 11 a.m.
  • September 29, 2021, at 11 a.m.

Guidance for Mason Stakeholders

Better Alternatives: CEZW’s One-Page Summary

EO 77 Reference List

Need Support?

The CEZW Task Force is committed to supporting the Mason community to ensure institutional compliance with EO 77. If you have questions about EO 77 or need guidance, please contact the CEZW Task Force at masonsc@gmu.edu.


The Circular Economies and Zero Waste Task Force is jointly led by Amber Saxton, Office of Sustainability, and Pascal Petter, Business Services. If you’re passionate about circular economies and zero waste, or interested in conducting research on these topics, please contact masonsc@gmu.edu.