Getting to Zero Waste: Waste Audits

Project Leads: Lin King, Julie Brown, Hanna Miller, Brenly Stapley, Melissa McDowell, Chika Kondo, John Ezaki

Sponsor: Campus Recycling & Refuse Services

TGIF Grant: $17,424

Project Theme: Waste Reduction

Project Location

2012 Application Submission

Status: Complete

Project Description: Funding will allow CRRS to standardize and perform week-long waste audits in collaboration with student interns, providing needed metrics for UC Berkeley's zero waste plans.

Goals: Standardize and perform waste audits on campus in conjunction with student groups in order to arrive at a more defined and accurate set of data from which we will plan projects and programs aimed at reaching Zero Waste by 2020. Conduct waste audits of campus buildings, departments, cafes, and operational units. Ensure audits are conducted in consultation with organizations that would use the data as metrics for their program. Identify what the campus community is disposing of, where, and how much, data which is critical for identifying buildings and departments to target for waste diversion as well as to assess current programs and inform future projects. Train students in the CRRS, Compost Alliance, Building Sustainability at Cal, and the Plastics Disclosure Project, on these standardized waste audit techniques.

2013 Project Poster

2012-2013 Accomplishments

  • Waste Audit Team was hired: Hanna Miller, Brenly Stapley, Melissa McDowell, Chika Kondo, John Ezaki
  • Established a list of potential buildings for waste audits:
    • Wurster Hall- Classrooms, offices, and design labs.
      • The Waste Audit Team sorted through a total of 1503lbs of waste. 52% of the waste was compost.
      • Results
    • Stanley Hall- Labs
      • Yali's will be included
    • Barrows Hall- Classrooms and offices
    • California Hall- Offices
      • Completed
      • California Hall generated 128.5 lbs of waste. 49.81% of the waste was compost.
    • Crossroads- Dining Facility
    • Unit 3- Residence Hall
    • Haas Pavilion- Athletics Facility
  • The Team switched from wearing aprons to wearing Tyvek suits for conducting waste audits.
  • The team will wear neoprene gloves on top of leather gloves to protect auditors' hands from sharp objects.
  • The team conducted a "practice audit" of Crossroads to train the team members.
    • The Waste Audit Team sorted through a total of 479lbs of waste. The amount of waste generated filled two dumpsters.
  • The Plastic Disclosure Project Team will work with the Waste Audit Team to separate the plastics from the waste audit and conduct their own audits of just the plastics. 
  • The Waste Audit team can sort through one 2 cubic yard dumpster a day on average.
  • Met with Waste management groups at UC San Diego. Inspired UCSD to consider applying for a similar grant to create their own Waste Audit Team.
  • Performed visual audit of University Village Recycling.
  • The Waste Audit Team partnered with BS@C for an audit of Sutardja Dai Hall. BS@C conducted the audit using their own methodology, along with the materials of the Waste Audit Team.
  • Stanley, Haas Pavilion, Barrows, and Units 1-3 audits are ongoing.
  • Project leader Hanna Miller and 2012 TGIF Grant Wurster Hall Waste Management project leader Eli Perszyk presented at the 2013 California Higher Education Sustainability Conference.

Next steps to address: Currently, the Waste Audit team has worked mostly in isolation from other campus waste audit groups and it now needs connect with such groups to design one standardized waste audit procedure.

Achieving Zero Waste at UC Berkeley

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.