What UCSB Is Doing to Make Our Campus Waste-Free

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By Josh Ortiz

For those who don’t know, the term “waste diversion” refers to the practice of keeping waste from going to landfills. The idea is to find some other way of putting the waste to use so that it doesn’t end up polluting our planet (i.e., reuse and recycle). So when we talk about a “waste diversion rate,” we refer to the percentage of our waste that is not going to landfills, but rather, is being put to use in other places.

A few years back, the UC campuses made it a goal to increase campus waste diversion to 75% by 2012.

When 2012 came around, however, none of the campuses had met the 75% mark. UCSB leads the pack at 71-72% (Go Gauchos!).

But we still want to do better. So, the new goal is to make 100% waste diversion by 2020. We have less than six years to make it so that none of our waste goes to landfills!

The big question now is “How?” What are we doing right now to reach this goal? What can we do to make that waste diversion rate bigger?

The campus is already doing a lot. Central Stores runs a furniture service where they take old, excess furniture and refurbish it for reuse. They also collect the campus’s “e-waste” such as old computers, televisions, or even lab technology, and they are able to have the parts of these salvaged for reuse.

Campus restaurants and food establishments are also switching to compostable dishes and utensils.

And then there is Associated Students Recycling. In this program, “route riders” go through the campus almost every day, tending to over 80 recycling bins. They empty the Berthas and Big Bellies, load the waste on their bike carts, and then take it out to be recycled. MarBorg, UCSB’s waste management contractor, then goes through the process of sorting out the commingled recycling into proper categories (paper, plastic, glass, etc.).

AS Recycling is also in charge of composting. The route riders will often take out various compost bins on their routes, and this composting is done on a commercial level. However, AS Recycling’s Department of Public Worms also hires a handful of “Worm Wranglers” to tend to on-site composting right here at UCSB. They run a small garden in the Eucalyptus Grove by Harder Stadium to demonstrate the value of composting as a means of waste diversion and food production.

Amidst all these efforts, however, a big part of our goal relies on the students.

Gauchos should educate themselves on what is recyclable and compostable. In Santa Barbara, we can recycle most stuff. That means nearly all metal, all plastic, all glass, and all paper. But no Styrofoam! As far as composting goes, most food scraps and biodegradable materials make great worm food.

Students should also take initiative. If you notice there’s no recycling at a certain spot on campus, do something about it. This is how we make the difference!

To learn more, students can visit the AS Recycling website at recycling.as.ucsb.edu.