The Waste Free Series: UCLA’s Zero Waste Goal by 2020


Welcome to our new Cupanion Waste Free Blog Series! In this series we will be focusing on organizations, schools, and companies that have become or are trying to become waste free. We will be highlighting their initiatives along with the tactics they’re using to achieve their waste free goal.

Each day the The University of California, Los Angeles contains an average population of 70,000 people at any given moment. This makes their goal of achieving Zero Waste by 2020 hard to believe. This ambitious goal has only recently been considered a possible reality, after the university was able to successfully meet that interim target in 2012, of 75% of their waste being diverted from entering the landfill. Between this landmark achievement, and their aspiring Zero Waste goal by 2020, has made UCLA a leading figure in the fight against global warming and climate change. Below are a few of the green initiatives UCLA has employed across their campus thus far:

  • Purchasing: The University works closely with vendors on reduction efforts such as setting all campus printers to double sided printing, using only recycled paper, and incorporating biodegradable garbage bin liners.
  • Clothes Out Program: 1998 created an annual program where students come together to sell, buy or donate their unwanted clothes and items. They also conduct a semi-annual clothes and shoe donation drive.
  • Moving In-or-Out: The university provides free recycled boxes for students to use when moving to or from on campus residents.
  • Chemical Reuse: UCLA uses a Surplus Chemical Exchange program that was created by EH&S to collect unused chemicals from various industries and schools. It then creates an inventory of what is available so that researchers can request to have these chemicals sent to them free of charge for usage. Also offers hazardous waste pickup to dispose of any contaminated chemicals properly.
  • Dollar Saver: Departments across campus can share with each other through a web page, what they are trying to get rid of so that other departments might take it off there hands for repurpose elsewhere on campus instead of simply throwing the item away into the garbage.
  • Paperless: Almost all university documents, class info, invites, newsletters…etc. are available in web versions to cut back on paper printing. Furthermore, high printing fees created as a means of deterring people printing as frequently or in high quantities. The campus bookstore also offers many e-books for a cheaper price.
  • Bikes: Abandoned bikes and bike parts abandoned on campus are displayed on their annual Bike (Re)cycled Day, where students can come by and choose a bike/part for free to take home instead of taking them to the dump.
  • Recycling: UCLA recycles nearly all construction materials used for campus renovation projects. The university also recycles approximately 150-200 tons of green landscaping waste each month and rescues it for mulch and other landscaping projects. They further offer recycling for electronics, batteries, light bulbs, wooden pallets, reprocessing medical equipment waste…etc. The University employs ‘single-stream’ or ‘commingled’ recycling instead of having separate recycling bins. This makes recycling les complicated, and thus more people will do it.
  • Composting: UCLA collects approximately 60 tons of food waste per month that is composted at the American Organics Composting Facility.
  • Bathrooms: offers different pressure flush toilets to cut down on water being wasted, paperless hand dryers in every washroom, and paper towels that are 100% recycled.
  • Waste to Energy: 15-20% of the university’s waste stream is processed and converted into energy to power buildings. Resulting ash is used for the construction of local roads and walkways.
  • Green Education: Staff are required to attend green workshops so that they are aware of UC’s waste goals, and programs. Students are also given a ‘Green Guide Book’ to help them use and reuse products throughout their education career both on campus and at home. Green office certifications required.
  • Reuse: Refillable mug programs are offered in campus coffee houses and dining facilities.

Protocols have been set for all campus events and extracurricular activities, with a minimum recycling/composting criteria that needs to be met in order to run.

This exhaustive list is only a mere few ways out of many in which UCLA has begun to transition into a Zero Waste academic institution by 2020. Their next steps includes piloting the program within a single department, so that areas of success and improvement can be identified before becoming a campus wide program. They will further continue to identify source opportunities so that greater reductions can be made, to create more easily accessible alternatives, and to find new ways of diverting waste.

No one can know for certain whether UCLA will be able to achieve this ambitious goal by 2020, however, their actions taken thus far make us believe that they stand a fighting chance. Their devotion to combating climate change is beyond admirable, as they inspire us and many others towards becoming waste free. UCLA has shows us that the sources and opportunities to become “Zero Waste” are out there, you just have to want it bad enough to make it happen.

Are you looking to reduce waste on your campus? Our Cupanion App has help reduced over 170,000 disposable cups or bottles from going to landfill across North America. With Cupanion students can track their impact and earn rewards on campus.

Want to learn more? Contact us today and let us help you take reuse to the next level!

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