The bay area campus has always had a reputation for innovation and eco-consciousness, but now UC Berkeley is taking their sustainability efforts one step further by committing to get rid of all non-recyclable waste by the year 2020.
Despite the campus’s efforts to reduce their waste output, a quarter of the material Berkeley throws out is never composted or recycled because it is too expensive to process. Lin King, the manager of UC Berkeley’s Campus Recycling and Refuse Services, explains that there are simply no resources for recycling the remaining waste "I’m collecting it and trying to recycle it, but there’s no market value."
Berkeley has already set up water stations to reduce the use of plastic water bottles on their campus and is in the process of changing recycling labels to increase public knowledge about the consequences of plastic waste.
But having a zero waste commitment isn't just about looking environmentally aware. Having a recycling program actually earns money for the university. The Health System at UC Davis, which is also aiming for zero waste by 2020, prompted a health care recycling initiative that saved the school over $400,000 in its first year of enactment in 2008. Recycling a ton of paper earns $80.00 for the Berkeley campus; hauling that same ton of paper to the landfill costs the school $71.47. Lin King of Berkeley notes:
"The math is simple: the campus saves almost $151.47 a ton when you recycle versus throwing it in the trash."
Californians Against Waste's Plastic Litter Reduction Campaign
Read more about Berkeley's decision to aim for zero waste
Read the UC Berkeley News Center Interview with Lin King