Despite COVID set-backs, Durham Tech becomes the first community college to Break Free From Plastic

Press Release


For More Information Contact
Katie Craig, Organizing Director, NCPIRG Students, 919-239-3500, [email protected]
Elizabeth Ekstrand, Chapter Chair, 2021, 984-227-9747, ekstrande05[email protected] 

DURHAM, NC. Durham Technical Community College signed onto the “Break Free From Plastic Campus Pledge” – a campus-wide commitment to eliminate all single-use disposable plastics. This initiative was led by NCPIRG Durham Tech and the Durham Tech Student Engagement Office, and supported by the non-profit the Post-Landfill Action Network (PLAN), and the Student PIRGs

“Durham Tech is not only the first campus in the state of North Carolina to commit to phasing out all non-essential single-use plastics, but we are the first community college in the country to make the commitment,” said Rachel Ruff, outgoing Chair of NCPIRG Students at DTCC. “Nothing we use for five minutes should pollute our waterways for hundreds of years. Durham Tech is now a national leader in solving our single-use plastics problem.”

Ruff, a Career and College Promise student and 2020 graduate of CE Jordan High School, led the communications between NCPIRG and Erin Riney, Durham Tech’s Director of Student Engagement. She plans to attend Fayetteville State University this fall.

Durham Tech is one of 58 community colleges in the North Carolina Community College System, serving thousands of Triangle residents each year. Due to COVID-19, the school quickly pivoted to remote instruction in mid-March, and will also hold the majority of its classes remotely for the fall semester. This transition to an online environment created challenges for the pledge, as both students and administrators grappled with the rapid changes associated with COVID-19. Collaboration and cooperation on all sides, however, led to an ultimate success for the NCPIRG chapter.

“I am so proud of my school for doing its part to turn away from harmful single-use plastics,” said Elizabeth Ekstrand, the incoming chapter chair of NCPIRG Durham Tech.  “With this commitment, we are setting an example for campuses across the state and country.”

The “Break Free From Plastic” campus pledge and toolkit specifically addresses accessibility and inclusivity concerns, and generates a framework for college campuses (and other institutions) to develop long-term systemic solutions to issues around waste and disposable consumption.

North Carolina Public Interest Research Group Students is a statewide network of student-run non-profits. Our chapters on campuses across the state provide the training, professional support and resources students need to tackle climate change, protect public health, revitalize our democracy, feed the hungry and more. For over 40 years we’ve helped students to get organized, mobilized and energized so they can continue to be on the cutting edge of positive change. With this commitment PIRG has now worked with more than a dozen campuses across the country to make the Break Free From Plastics commitment.

PLAN is a non-profit that cultivates, educates, and inspires students leaders to tackle issues around waste and unsustainable systems on their campus. The campus pledge was built in coalition with the international Break Free From Plastic Movement and can be found on PLAN’s website among many other tools and resources to assist students looking to get involved in the student led zero waste movement.