Zero Waste Research Center & Plastic Disclosure Project

Project Leads: Kimberly Lam, Liz Chan, Lin King, Shannon Davis, Caitlin Catalano, Kristen Klein, Emily McKeon, Kellie Carlson, Lena Forti, Geertje Grootenhuis; beginning summer 2014, project moved under SERC leadership

Sponsor: Campus Recycling and Refuse Services, SERC, & TGIF

TGIF Grant: $19,100

Project Theme: Waste Reduction

Project Location

2012 Application Submission

Application Metrics

Status: Complete

Project Description: This grant will fund five student interns charged with running a Zero Waste Research Center and Plastic Disclosure Project to address the issues surrounding upstream waste that currently prevent UC Berkeley from attaining its zero waste goal. The purpose of the project is to create a strategic long-term plan to reduce unnecessary plastic use, encourage more efficient plastic use, and build strategic partnerships on campus. The Plastic Disclosure Project is a project of the Ocean Recovery Alliance.

Goals: The Zero Waste Research Center will receive information from waste assessments and audits to identify the materials that the campus does not have an existing method of diverting from the landfill. The ZWRC will work with professors, graduate students, product vendors, manufacturers, city, county, and state agencies as well as stakeholders from other universities and institutions to research, develop, and set up alternative products and policies to use materials that can be easily diverted. In addition, the ZWRC will work with vendors to develop take-back programs for reuse of products. It may also work with the campus purchasing department on developing greener purchasing policies to include or mandate these alternative products and practices. The Plastic Disclosure Project (PDP) will specifically address the need for better alternatives to upstream sources and downstream destinations of plastic through the disclosure of a campus plastic footprint. PDP will enable UC Berkeley to establish the first public disclosure of plastic use on campus. The project will also educate the campus community on desirable plastic recycling practices, and create a long-term plan of action to both reduce plastic use and find ways to re-purpose or recycle plastic that is currently thrown away.

TGIF Blog Posts about ZWRC

2013 Project Poster

2012-2013 Accomplishments

  • The ZWRC aided in three plastic waste audits, completed one extensive product purchase recommendation report, completed over 560 hours of research and project implementation, and hopes to share this information with important stakeholders on campus, key vendors, and students.
    • Plastic Disclosure Project: The Zero Waste Research Center has compiled the data from two waste audits, in Crossroads and Wurster, looking at the variety and amount of plastics in these two waste streams. The Team is using this data to take an extensive look at where the plastic and is coming from and how to replace those non-recyclable plastics in order to divert it from landfill. The audits will also determine what types of plastics are we purchasing or bringing onto campus.
    • Memorial Stadium: The ZWRC has completed its research on finding alternative products for Memorial Stadium to replace those that are going to landfill, such as the hot dog wrappers or finding a recyclable souvenir cup. All of this research has been compiled into a final report that is being shared with Cal Dining, who is in charge of procurement for the products in the Stadium, in order to drive Cal towards its Zero Waste by 2020 goal.
    • The ZWRC Team researched strategies for closing the loop in campus waste streams, particularly with plastics.
      • The team reviewed OfficeMax's top 30 purchases list to examine recyclable/reusable alternatives to Cal office supplies.
      • The team also investigated a potential partnership with TerraCycle, who is interested in taking pens for recycling.
  • The ZWRC Team contacted to Procurement and Overstock and Surplus for possible partnerships.
  • Met with Doug Woodring, Co-Founder of the Ocean Recovery Alliance.
  • Met with Dr. Mike Biddle, President and Founder of MBA Polymers, Inc. Dr. Biddle also presented at the 2013 CACS Sustainability Summit.

Achieving Zero Waste at UC Berkeley

2013-2014 Accomplishments

  • ZWRC RoadshowCRRS has partnered with OfficeMax to promote an Environmentally Preferred Purchasing (EPP) program of sustainable office products.
    • CRRS and OfficeMax hosted its first Environmental Preferred Office Products Road Show at Campus Shared Services on November 14th.   
    • The goal of the Road Show is to promote environmentally preferred items by distributing samples and providing education and a list of the items to campus purchasing staff. The listis formatted to match UC Berkeley's purchasing system, Bear Buy, making it clear and easy to choose the more sustainable product.
    • The team contacted Pilot, Sanford, and 3M to participate in the event. 
  • The team is now in the process of planning the 2014 calendar for the monthly EPP Road Show. There is a list of eleven possible campus buildings for the event: California Hall, 2000 Carleton (PPCS), Boalt Hall, Sproul Hall, Mulford Hall, Lawrence Hall of Science, Stanley Hall, Haas Business School, Energy Biosciences Building, Warren Hall, and Sutardja Dai.
    • On February 11, 2014, the second Road Show was held at California Hall. The California Hall Road Show was successful: many building occupants stopped by the table including staff responsible for purchasing in various departments in California Hall. Samples of the B2P pen were distributed.
    • The March Road Show will take place at Wurster Hall on 3/11 and the April Road Show will take place at 2000 Carleton on 4/24.
    • UC News Center article on the Road Shows and ZWRC work.
    • Road Show 2014 Final Report
      • The team promotes reducing waste through purchasing items with less packaging, items that can be recycled, composed, or reused, and only items will be used.
      • Goal: by 2020, UC Berkeley will not purchase products whose end cycle is the landfill.
ZWRC Roadshow ZWRC Roadshow
  • Mike Biddle of MBA Polymers donated some of his plastic identification equipment to the Zero Waste Research Center.
    • CRRS received the equipment and materials and moved them to a lab space with secured at Richmond Field Station on December 13th. 
    • Some staff were trained on the equipment and set up the lab with Brian Riise of MBA Polymers on February 27, 2014. 
    • Next steps for this project include writing up a manual of this information and identifying potential uses of the machinery, not only for the ZWRC staff but also other campus entities.
  • Shannon Davis of CRRS became the project leader for the Plastic Disclosure Project beginning January 2014.
    • Shannon is completing an honors thesis for the College of Natural Resources on a similar subject. 
    • Shannon's responsibilities for this semester include identifying which information is missing from the PDP, how to acquire that information, and completing the PDP. Cal Dining has been assisting with securing plastics information from the various campus vendors.
  • Recyclyemania and Game Day Challenge
    • UC Berkeley won the 2013 Game Day competition hosted by Recyclemania. Recyclemania is an annual 8-week waste diversion competitionfor universities. 
    • UC Berkeley is participating in Recyclemania 2014; CRRS held another Zero Waste Basketball Game for Game Day 2014 with Athletics, Cal Dining, and TGIF. 
    • The game was held on March 8th vs. Colorado, the last home game of the 2013-2014 basketball season. 
    • Emily, Kristen, Geertje, and other CRRS staff attended multiple basketball games this season to assess the available bins and concessions, and determine what needed changing prior to the Zero Waste Game. 
    • The ZWRC has worked with Cal Dining to ensure that all items at the Haas Pavilion concession stands are either compostable or recyclable. Some items such as the hot dog wrappers, coffee cup lids, and straws, are neither compostable nor recyclable, so the ZWRC suggested alternatives to for the Zero Waste Game. 
    • The ZWRC worked with Athletics to establish a suitable bin infrastructure for the game. Usually, Haas Pavilion only has landfill bins but for the Zero Waste Game, recycling and composting slim jims and three new Max-R bins installed were installed.
    • Results from the Game:
      • Compost: 550.5lbs
      • Bottles and Cans: 467 lbs
      • Mixed Paper: 53lbs
      • Landfill: 82 lbs
      • 93% diversion rate.
    • Photos from the Game
  • In addition to assessing Cal Dining's Haas Pavilion concessions, the Zero Waste Research Center is also revisiting its Retail Assessment of Cal Dining's campus dining locations. The ZWRC has assessed all of Cal Dining's restaurants/dining commons/cafes twice, with the most recent visit being July 2013. The ZWRC is collaborating with Cal Dining's Sustainability Team, headed by Sarah Atkinson, to assess Cal Dining's retail establishments for a third time.
    • Items that are of interest in this third assessment are Peet's new compostable lids, the metal silverware in campus eateries such as Pat Browns, and the new to-go salad containers, which are either #1/#2 plastic or compostable. 
    • This assessment will be completed and the "Improvements Made and Improvements Needed" reports will be updated by mid-March 2014. Upon completion of these reports, the ZWRC will meet with Cal Dining to review the results and provide recommendations for items that are still problematic.
  • Green Labs
    • Geertje Grootenhuis, the Zero Waste Research Center's new Staff Assistant, has taken the lead on CRRS work with green labs. Next steps include identifying supply chains in labs such as Stanley and EBB and meeting with Sepee Cigarchi of VWR, a research laboratory product distributor. 
    • CRRS will be working with the CACS Green Labs Team- Edward Sihua Yang, Julie Brown, and Katherine Walsh

Mission Statement

The Green Initiative Fund (TGIF) provides funding for projects that reduce UC Berkeley's negative impact on the environment and make UC Berkeley more sustainable. TGIF will allocate funds to projects that promote sustainable modes of transportation, increase energy and water efficiency, restore habitat, promote environmental and food justice, and reduce the amount of waste created by UC Berkeley. Portions of the fund also support education and behavior change initiatives, student aid (via return to aid), and internships. TGIF is supported by student fees and administered through a student-majority committee and a program coordinator.