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Zero Waste 

UC Commitment

Achieve zero waste (defined as 90 percent diversion from landfill) by 2020 at all locations other than UC Health locations, which will have separate waste reduction goals.

Campus Actions

We are:

  • Prioritizing reduction, reuse and diversion — in that order
  • Reducing waste generation to:
    • 2015/2016 per capita levels by 2020
    • 25% per capita from 2015/2016 levels by 2025
    • 50% per capita from 2015/2016 levels by 2030
  • Striving to divert at least 90% of materials from landfill or incineration through recycling, composting, anaerobic digestion, etc.
  • Phasing out the sale, procurement and distribution of Expanded Polystyrene (EPS):
    • Ensuring that no EPS food serveware is used on campus (e.g., cups, clam shells, plates, etc.)
    • Working with suppliers to phase out EPS packaging for non-temperature sensitive products (e.g., office supplies, electronics, furniture, etc.)
    • Reducing, reusing and finding EPS alternatives for lab and medical packaging
  • Estimating greenhouse gas emissions from waste management practices

The UC San Diego Health System is following the Practice Green Health metrics and will establish zero waste goals by 2020.


In Fiscal Year 2018/2019, UC San Diego diverted 38% of its municipal solid waste through reduction, reuse and diversion (recycling, composting and anaerobic digestion) activities. Examples of these efforts include:

  • Facilities Management transitioned office and cubicle trash containers in state-funded buildings to unlined Bin Buddies to help employees recycle more and waste less.
  • Housing, Dining & Hospitality:
    • Uses reusable dishware, cups and utensils in all dining facilities, restaurants and markets. They also give discounts for using reusable mugs in its dining facilities.
    • Does not give plastic straws in dining facilities and offers paper straws upon request.
    • Composts pre-consumer food waste from its restaurants and markets through the City of San Diego’s Miramar Greenery.
    • Is installing a small anaerobic digester as part of the North Torrey Pines Living and Learning Neighborhood project. Housing, Dining & Hospitality Services will operate the digester that will take pre-consumer food waste from the dining hall to provide liquid fertilizer and methane gas for the outdoor grill.
  • The Campus Bookstore eliminated plastic bags and sells reusable bags, coffee mugs and water bottles.
  • The Hub for Basic Needs Services works with the student-organized Food Recovery Network to recover edible food from Housing, Dining & Hospitality restaurants and markets, The Faculty Club and the on-campus Farmers’ Market to get items to students in need.
  • The Staff Sustainability Network developed guidelines for hosting a zero-waste event in August 2019 to lead the Staff Association Event Planning Committee through the necessary steps for making the Annual Staff Summer Celebration a successful zero-waste event. With the Network's help, the Staff Association achieved a 97% diversion rate.
  • Roger’s Urban Farmlab processes all compostable waste from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, several University Centers food vendors and office locations, post-consumer pilot programs in select Housing, Dining & Hospitality restaurants, and compostable waste from large-scale campus events. Roger’s student-designed anaerobic digester turns food waste into renewable electricity, compost and nitrogen-rich organic fertilizer, which is used to grow food onsite for the Triton Food Pantry.
  • Scripps Institution of Oceanography:
    • Banned straws on its properties.
    • Composts all organics at Roger’s Urban Farmlab.
    • Holds regular campus clean up events.
    • Uses reusable dishware, cups and utensils in departmental kitchens and at departmental events.

Zero Waste Plan

A cross-university working group created a Zero Waste Plan in September 2019. The plan includes more than 20 reduction, reuse and diversion recommendations to move the university towards zero waste. The group will continually update the plan based on waste audits and studies, new regulations and policies, and analyses of new best practices and technologies.


Take Action