Waste Goals

GOAL: Achieve a 75% diverison rate by June 2012 and zero waste by 2020.

STATUS: On track


The campus diversion rate has increased to 54%, with the amount of municipal solid waste being sent to landfill again dropping (down 2%).  More impressively, the landfill tonnage is down by a third since 1995.  The data also reveals the success of campus efforts to expand the composting program, as the campus now diverts almost 40% more than just two years ago.  Even with these improvements, the campus has not yet reached its diversion goals.

  • The campus currently recycles  mixed paper, newspaper, magazines and books, cardboard, beverage containers, toner and ink jet cartridges, electronic waste, plastic film, plastic pipette containers, metal, motor oil, tires, and batteries.
  • The campus currently composts a portion of food waste, compostable kitchenware, green and wood waste, and pallets.
  • The campus has a hazardous waste and waste minimization plan that includes e-waste.
  • The student-managed ReUSE  program operates around 18 on-campus reuse stations for office supplies and the annual Second Chance clothing sales and reader giveaways. ReUSE projects reduce waste by 2-5 tons annually. The campus also works to reuse office supplies, equipment, and vehicles through the Overstock and Surplus Den.

Spotlight: Special Projects

Plastic Disclosure Project Results 

The Zero Waste Research Center conducted analysis through the Plastic Disclosure Project in order to increase transparency.  Through waste audits in multiple buildings, the Center found that 28% of the waste stream is non-recyclable plastic.

Telegraph Eateries Urged to Cut Waste, Embrace ‘Reusable’

“In anticipation of Earth Week, sustainability-minded UC Berkeley students are gathering signatures and organizational endorsements for a campaign designed to help “make ‘reusable’ a reality on Telegraph,” as they put it. Their petition calls on Southside food businesses to provide discounts of 10 cents or more to customers who provide their own cups, utensils and containers during the days before and after Earth Day, April 22. Participating businesses would also make takeout bags available solely on request, and would post signage…to advertise the discount.”[1]  Read more here and here about this TGIF-funded project.

Bears are No. 1 (again) in national game-day recycling contest

“The Berkeley campus has successfully defended its title in Recyclemania, the national collegiate basketball game waste-diversion competition. In its [fourth] consecutive win of the game-day challenge, Berkeley achieved its best showing yet, with 96 percent of waste being diverted from landfill."  Read more.

Photo credit: Cal Dance Team members Katie Russell, left, and Anne Flannigan promote the recycling message on game day.

UC Berkeley wins Pac-12 Challenge

Berkeley won the first ever Pac-12 Zero Waste Challenge held by the Green Sports Alliance, and repeated in 2016. The GSA is committed to promoting sustainability through the platform of sports. Lin King, Recycling and Refuse Manager, and Katherine Walsh, Director of the Student Environmental Resource Center, accepted the 2015 award at the Green Sports Summit in Chicago.  Read more.

Cal Zero Waste

Visit the Cal Zero Waste site to see what facilities services is doing to reduce waste. 

Do you have an item that you would like to recycle, but are not sure where to bring it? Check out this resource guide for where to recycle different materials in Berkeley. Sites are available for recycling materials such as appliances, batteries, electronics, clothes, food waste, and metals. 

Waste Highlights

a recycling effort at the Barrow's Hall radio station

A recycling effort at the Barrow's Hall radio station

Hazardous waste generation and disposal dropped from 341 tons in 2000 to 226 tons in 2015 (including asbestos and lead construction waste).

Mail Services and others work with vendors such as Ecological Mail and Intra Mail network to reduce unwanted mail.

The College of Chemistry Chemical ReUse program dispensed 2927 chemical reagents in 2012.

UC Berkeley's local government and community relations team now helps coordinate  the Cal Move-Out and Move-In Programs in partnership with several campus and community groups.  The program combines outreach to students and property owners about responsible disposal and reuse strategies as well as the deployment of large debris bins in the student-dense neighborhoods near campus.