By MICHAEL SIMINITUS
R4 Recycling Coordinator
UC Davis and the UC system, like San Francisco and dozens of other communities across California, including L.A., Fresno, Oakland, Santa Cruz, Berkeley, Palo Alto and Marin County have adopted the goal of Zero Waste. With this objective in mind, these communities are prioritizing new and innovative waste prevention and recycling programs. But what does Zero Waste mean? How can we achieve Zero Waste?
Zero Waste is a direction we’re heading, a policy path, and there are a number of policies in place that are taking us toward that goal. For example, we have learned that compostable organics make up over 45 percent of what is disposed of in California landfills. When organics (food) are land-filled, they produce methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Realizing composting is a high recycling priority and a global warming gas reduction priority, R4 recycling began going after this material to recycle into soil and cool the planet. Over the last year, R4 Zero Waste has grown to meet this challenge and has implemented a new organics collection system to meet our goal of reaching a 75 percent recycling rate by 2012 and Zero Waste by 2020. This is just one example of UC Davis finding solutions and moving toward Zero Waste.
Over the last year, the Zero Waste program pioneered the Zero Waste Stadium project where they achieved a 95 percent recycling rate at the last Aggie football game; R4 implemented post-consumer composting at all the campus dining facilities; piloted a Zero Waste Coffee House, Picnic Day Quad and coordinated and serviced hundreds of other Zero Waste events, big and small. R4 employees work with event planners daily to prevent waste at events, as well as set up the collection stations, removing trash cans and taking away the recyclable materials after the event. This year, yellow recycling carts were purchased for compost collections to capture even more compostable discards, and they were distributed to event facilities that now provide Zero Waste event services. Looking forward, we are on pace to more than double food scrap collection over 2007.
In 2007, our campus recycling rate reached 60 percent, the highest at any UC and according to the EPA’s WARM model, reduced our campus Green House Gas Emissions by 5,045 metric tons of CO2. If we look at energy use savings, recycling saved 46,594 million BTUs, equivalent to 682 passenger cars removed from the roadway each year.
The budget is tight this year, but our growing Zero Waste Program needs funding to continue reducing our campus impact. The program is making great strides toward sustainability and is capable of meeting our future goals. Our university and planet benefit from investing in recycling – R4 has net the campus over $250,000 in avoided landfill costs and recycling revenue last year. Funding the programs that support Zero Waste goals help save both money and the planet.