Recycling at Cal Program

Project Leads: Michal Shuldman, Theron Klos, Lisa Bauer

Sponsor: Campus Recycling & Refuse Services, Grounds Services

TGIF Grant: $55,000

Project Theme: Waste Reduction

Project Location

2009 Application Submission

Status: Complete

Project Description: This project will design, label, and install multi-material receptacles for collection and recycling of beverage containers, mixed paper, and landfill waste in multiple strategic outdoor campus locations.

Goals: Design and test new outdoor recycling bins that meet the aesthetic, functional, and ergonomic needs of the campus community. Conduct pre-implementation surveys that gain feedback on priority locations for recycling bins and measure the level of recycling knowledge and awareness that exists on campus. Measure and record campus diversion rates pre- and post-implementation of the project. Collaborate with Grounds Services and Campus Recycling and Refuse Services. Assist campus in reaching zero waste by 2020. Conduct post-implementation surveys to measure any improvement in recycling knowledge and awareness of the campus community. Make sure 100% of landfill receptacles have adjacent recycling receptacles to promote campus to sort their waste materials. With the installation of 75 new bins, we estimate a diversion rate of 136,500 lbs per year, a savings of 9964.5 kgCO2 per year.

TGIF Blog Posts about Recycling at Cal

Project Photos

UC Berkeley Recycling Survey Results

2010-2011 Accomplishments

  • The bin design working group finalized the design standards and selected a manufacturer:
  • The color of the body of the bin should be Elephants Breath.
  • The design should become the new standard for the campus, incorporated into the Campus Landscape Master Plan. Once the design becomes the standard, campus could allow for a different finish on the container if requested for new buildings.
  • The project team confirmed that the containers can be bolted down.
  • Drain holes for the bottom were suggested, with the being rodent-proof sizes. Bins will also be coated to prevent graffiti.
  • The bin design is ergonomically sound; the TGIF grant is being subsidized by a grant from the Worker Compensation Fund.
  • The bins will have larger, colored labels so people can recognize the bin types from a distance.
  • The bin types will have different shaped openings for different streams of recycling; research shows that changing the aperture for different streams can significantly decrease contamination.
  • Flexibility with design: the bin design allows for the ability to add compost when it comes online. The face plates and labels of the new bins are all removable and can be switched with different streams as needed, including adding compost. The new bin design is an octagon shape which allows for the bin to be grouped in a variety of configurations or set up separately.
  • The bins will be ADA accessible.


Bin Design and Construction Drawings


Recycling Bin Designs Presentation

Next Steps: Recycling at Cal will work with the manufacturer to create a physical prototype and finalize the bin designs. The project team will also hire GO! Team to conduct pre-implementation and post-implementation waste audits on Upper Sproul to determine the success of the new bins. The project team hopes to place the bin order in December 2011 and begin installation of the bins January/February 2012. Post-implementation, the project team and TGIF will collaborate with Campus recycling and Refuse Services to publicize the bins and educate the campus on waste reduction practices.

2011-2012 Accomplishments

  • RFP was sent out and the manufacturer of the bins was selected
  • Bin order was placed
  • Manufacturer delivered two round of prototypes with adjustments
  • Initial waste audit was performed
    • The waste audit performed in Upper Sproul determined the amount of waste and contamination in three streams: landfill, paper, and bottles and cans. The audit determined that 60% of the waste on Upper Sproul was compost, which strongly supports that Upper Sproul would be a good location in initiate a campus compositing program.
    • The data also showed that the bottles and cans bins are 94% contaminated by waste that should be in other bins, and the paper recycling is 48% contaminated. The new bins should help deal with some of this contamination because the new design includes:
    1. labels that can be seen clearly from the side and from far away
    2. color coding for different streams of recycling
    3. different shaped apertures for different streams


Details from an Upper Sproul waste audit conducted by GO! Team
The waste audit data shows that the majority of waste generated in Upper Sproul, about sixty percent, is compostable. However, Upper Sproul does not have a compost program in place. GO! Team recommended that a composting system be implemented due to the high waste diversion potential from the landfill stream. The GO! Team also observed that most of the waste streams are contaminated. The bottles and cans recycling is ninety-four percent contaminated by waste that should be in other bins, and the paper recycling is contaminated by forty-eight percent. The overall waste profile of Upper Sproul breaks down thus: 61.3% Compost, 22.2% paper, 10.5% landfill, and 6% bottles and cans. In addition to the recommendation for a composting program, a possible solution for addressing contamination would be to introduce new bins with better labeling. The current bins have labels that are difficult to read from far away and are not distinguishable aside from their labels. Introducing new bins that are visibly different and have clearer labels on them may help reduce contamination. A recycling awareness program for students may also be helpful in refreshing students' knowledge on the proper disposal of recyclables and may help facilitate better disposal.

  1. Conduct a second waste audit to compare effectiveness of new bins in diverting waste.
  2. Introduce the new waste bins with a recycling outreach program that will call attention to the new bins and make students aware of their presence.
  3. Implement a composting program.
  4. The end goal is to implement a system that diverts the waste as efficiently as possible into the proper waste streams

Read the full report here.

Year-End Report

Next Steps

  • Resolve legal issues between University and manufacturer.
  • Potentially send out another RFP and select a new manufacturer. This would entail going through another round of prototypes.
  • Purchase and install bins.
  • Complete an additional waste audit to compare diversion rates with new bins.
  • Use any leftover funds for educational purposes regarding recycling on campus.

2012-2013 Accomplishments

  • Legal issues between the University and original manufacturer were resolved. Designs and drawings are with a new manufacturer, a local company in Richmond, CA.
  • The order of bins placed was 159 Landfill, 36 Bottles & Cans, and 10 Mixed Paper (funded by the Be Smart About Safety grant), and 28 Bottles & Cans and 28 Mixed Paper (funded by this TGIF grant).
    • Some of the bins have been rolled out onto Upper Sproul. 
    • A second waste audit will be conducted on Uper Sproul late September/early October.
  • The bins have received some local press:


January 7, 2013 Facilities Services Announcement
Over the next three months, new exterior trash/recycling/waste containers being installed throughout campus. The 225 new containers replace the existing concrete block trash cans, which will be recycled. The installation will take place in phases through March starting with areas near upper Sproul Plaza, Dwinelle, Wheeler, Doe and Moffitt Libraries, California Hall and Memorial Glade.
These new containers were specially designed for our campus with input from Physical Plant-Campus Services (PP-CS) staff and students and will serve as the campus standard for outdoor waste collection. The containers are designed to eliminate lifting injuries to staff that empty them; prevent rainwater collection; reduce any clutter of containers on campus; and restrict access pests have to trash. They are also designed to help the campus meet goals of zero waste of 2020 by having clearly marked separate sections for recycling, landfill and sometime in the future, compost.
Grants from campus programs The Green Initiative Fund and Be Smart About Safety funded design and production of the first set of containers. They will bring a uniformity of recycle/trash containers to campus that is aesthetically pleasing, ergonomically minded and functionally improved.
The new receptacles will be placed in strategic locations to be accessible and convenient for staff, students, faculty and the PP-CS gardeners who are responsible for emptying the containers. There will be fewer of them throughout campus because the new ones have almost 50% more capacity. Please help keep our campus clean by disposing of materials in the appropriate section of the new container.
If you would like to learn more about the design or installation of the new containers please contact Theron Klos, PP-CS Grounds Manager, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


    • The UC News Center ran a story about Recycling at Cal.
    • The Daily Cal also featured a story on Recycling at Cal.
    • The April issue of bright green news featured an article about TGIF project Recycling at Cal.

2013-2014 Update
The TGIF funded Waste Audit Team conducted a post-implementation waste audit of Upper Sproul October 20-24, 2013. The team surveyed 20 different stations consisting of 20 different bin configurations. In total, they surveyed:

  • 26 Landfill Bins*
  • 6 Mixed Paper Bins
  • 8 Bottles & Cans

*The majority of the bins on Upper Sproul are landfill, hence the discrepancy.



  • Due to the contamination levels and paper being so heavily contaminated, removing the mixed paper bins entirely from Upper Sproul and only having cans and bottles and landfill would be a recommended first step to see if that would decrease contamination in the bottles and cans bins.
  • All of the configurations should be placed on the sides along the wall of the walk and not the middle of the walk.
  • This would encourage users to walk up to use the bins versus throwing their materials in the closest bin. The landfill bin needs to be paired with a cans/bottles bin.
  • For the next phase, mixed paper bins should be converted to compost bins due to the high food contamination levels in mixed paper bins. Most of the food containers found in the audits were compostable
  • If food packaging materials from off-campus vendors were all recyclable or compostable, this would greatly assist in the decrease in landfill items and towards our zero waste by 2020 goals
  • Having a better composting and recycling system available at GBC and accompanying signage would cut down on the food and food packaging waste in the Upper Sproul bins

Upper Sproul Post-Implementation Waste Audit Report

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.