Bulk Bin Project

Project Lead: Lucy Tate, Sarah Atkinson, Anna Yip

Sponsor: Cal Dining, Zero Waste Research Center

TGIF Grant: $5,386

Project Theme: Waste Reduction

Project Location: Cub Market, Goldern Bear Cafe, Bear Market, and Ramona's 

2015 Application Submission

Status: Complete

Project Description: In the hopes of furthering UC Berkeley towards its goal of Zero Waste by 2020, the Bulk Bin project, a collaboration between Cal Dining, Building Sustainability at Cal and the Zero Waste Research Center, will introduce bulk food dispensers in 4 on-campus retail locations. The bulk bins offer a unique, upstream approach towards preventing and eliminating both food and packaging waste, giving students the ability to buy different food items in the quantities that they desire (by pricing by the pound) in compostable or reusable containers. The bulk bins will reduce the waste from individually plastic-packaged foods like candy, nuts and cereal and will encourage students to bring reusable containers to purchase the bulk items by giving a discount to these customers. Cal Dining has approved the implementation of the bulk bins in four locations, Cub Market (FH), Golden Bear Cafe, Bear Market (Unit 3) and Ramona’s, and is willing to take on financial responsibility for expanding the project if deemed successful.

Goals: The goal of this project is to reduce post-consumer landfill waste at UC Berkeley by getting rid of individually wrapped snacks in order to reach UC Berkeley's goal of Zero Waste by 2020. They hope that in the implementation of this project, students will understand the environmental implications of their daily consumption habits and thus begin to use reusables in their daily lives outside of Cal Dining. Finally, they want to examine the financial aspects of the project by following sales reports to see what bulk items sell the best and worst, to continue improving this project so that it can be expanded all over campus. 

  • The bulk bins have been installed in Bear Market, Cub Market, and GBC!
  • Opening week organizers tabled at GBC and had a good amount of success with it. Plenty of students showed interest in the new bins and had lots of positive questions and feedback.
  • Bought 200 reusable snack pouches with Bulk Bin logo on them and handed them out at tabeling during opening week. 
  • Project has finished 103 in-person surveys
  • Ordered 845 pounds of bulk products in all locations! Project leaders can assume all of it has been sold/will be sold by the end of the month (March).
  • Project ordered $951 worth of reusable pouches (same as the ones project ordered previously)
  • Installing bulk bins (cohesiveness across locations, having correct stacking equipment)
  • Costs of scales (unaccounted for)
  • Choosing snack pouch material
  • Getting people to use reusable containers
  • Tarring jars (educating staff) 
  • Tarring still proves to be a challenge at most locations. The scales are not as “user-friendly” as project had hoped, but Allie and Lucy are still working with the different locations to normalize the task
  • The plastic bags available at the different locations are not compostable. Project leaders thought that SunRidge (the bulk supplier) was going to provide them, but they are not compostable, so project is working on finding a replacement.
Timeline Progress:
  • Now project is focused on measuring success
  • More in-depth analysis of effects to describe and visualize the waste project has saved
  • Survey of response (what students/employees like/don’t like)
  • March → Sam will have pounds of products we have sold
  • Project's next steps are to address the two challenges of tarring and compostable bags. The tarring issue should be resolved by the end of the month, at which point we will begin to encourage individuals to bring their own reusable containers.
    We want to have compostable bags available ASAP, and aim to have the issue solved by the end of April.
    We will survey some more. I hope to have 200 responses for my metrics to include on my poster! 
Budget Update/Expenditures to Date:
  • 103 responses down, 100 more to go.
    • Snapshot: 78% know about bulk bins, 33% have used them, 5% of nonusers avoid because of inconvenience, and 76% of nonusers avoid because they do not want what is offered.
Education and Outreach:
  • Opening day; handing out free pouches
  • Signage → Health code, instructional
  • The surveying seemed to be a great outreach mechanism. Every student who had not heard about the bins left informed about them!
  • Project planned on expanding outreach once tarring practices have been solidified, focusing outreach on bringing your own reusable containers.


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.