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Youngkin rolls back Northam's limits on single-use plastics

Youngkin recycling
Governor's office livestream
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Gov. Glenn Youngkin signs the executive order at a recycling business in Chesterfield County.

Avoiding single-use plastic bottles and bags can be hard if it's the only option around. State agencies had tried to phase them out, but those plans seem to be over now.

Conveyer belts are pushing a steady stream of plastic bottles through a recycling plant just south of Richmond. They are part of the reason Governor Glenn Youngkin is here.

“This executive order is about recycling for the future. Not banning products of the past,” the governor says.

Youngkin is scrapping plans for state agencies to stop using plastic. Thursday, he issued an executive order replacing one former Governor Ralph Northam issued last year. Northam’s order said state agencies, including universities, needed to stop using single-use plastics.

“We're going to have bins at every government facility. We're going to start measuring the amount of recycled content that we get in those bins in government facilities," he explains. "We're going to start, in state parks, working to make sure that we leave no trace.”

Youngkin is ordering state agencies to increase awareness of recycling receptacles and encouraging recycling companies to come to Virginia. Environmental groups are opposed to the order and say it will just increase pollution.

“So, it's a classic example of greenwashing, which is like the attempt to gaslight people into thinking that this is a proper environmentally conscious process, when in reality it's actually pollution intensive,” says Tim Cywinski with the Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club.

“Generally if we're keeping plastics around, we're going to have a plastic pollution problem that impacts our climate.”

In 2019, volunteers collected 12,000 plastic bottles and 13,000 plastic bags from the Chesapeake Bay.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Jahd Khalil is a reporter and producer in Richmond.
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