Waste Goals

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

STATUS: On track


Partnerships Are key to action and progress

UC Berkeley has successfully worked to reduce the amount of waste sent to landfills over the last two decades. In 2013, UC Berkeley achieved a 50% overall waste diversion rate (44% when construction waste was excluded). Despite campus efforts, diversion rates excluding construction waste have remained stagnant at around 44% in 2013. In spite of the challenges, the campus is committed to reaching zero waste by 2020.  

The amount of solid waste sent to landfills by the campus went down by 6% last year, and has dropped by 32% since 1995.  The amount of waste diverted through composting has increased by 13% from last year.


In 2011, the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on Sustainability (CACS) commissioned a study in partnership with Campus Recycling and Refuse Services (CRRS) and the Office of Sustainability to review current waste disposal practices and identify the challenges and opportunities available to the meet the campus zero waste target. This research found that the campus can likely reach a 75% diversion rate by expanding existing programs. The campus is currently developing a Zero Waste Plan that identifies current and future strategies, provides design guidelines, and outlines the steps needed to reach zero municipal solid waste.

  • 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

UC Berkeley is involved in many fun, innovative projects aimed at reducing waste.  Here is a sampling, and see the 2014 Sustainability Report for a more complete list to inspire.

Bears Retain National RecycleMania Title

Kristen Klein at RecyclemaniaBerkeley has successfully defended its title in the national collegiate waste-diversion competition, RecycleMania. For a second time, Cal had the highest waste diversion rate (93%) at the March 8, 2014, men’s basketball home game against University of Colorado Boulder (which Cal won 66-65). To help motivate the crowd, the half-time entertainment included a composting and recycling competition on the court with prizes donated by Cal Dining. 

New Move-In/Move-Out Program Encourages Students To Be Green

“Be Green! Keep it out of the Waste Stream!” reads a message shared with students. As part of the Cal Move-Out program, the webpage highlights ways for students to recycle all of their goods, from clothes, electronics, furniture, to bikes and more. Combining the resources of UC Berkeley and the City of Berkeley, the program aims to decrease the effects of illegal dumping near campus, and the environmental effects that accompany it. 

New Campus Trash & Recycling Cans Excel in Design & Safety

In 2009, the desire to improve waste collection sparked a unique approach to addressing campus needs. Outdated trash cans posed a mounting problem to Physical Plant-Campus Services crew, who incurred injuries from heavy lifting when collecting refuse. Theron Klos, grounds manager, lead the initiative to have Berkeley create its own solution. Seeking help from the sustainability community,  environmental design students designed a trash can that excelled in all categories: waterproof, vermin-resistant, safer, and durable. With the first installation of the new bins, the campus moved another step forward in achieving zero waste by 2020. Read more, or visit the TGIF website.

3 trash bins

Recycling Resources in Berkeley

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 162 tons in 2013 (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.

Since 2006, the Residential Student Services Program  has offered the Cal Move-Out Program in partnership with several campus and community groups. The program includes reader and clothing drives.