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Zero Waste

UC Commitment

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

Campus Highlights


  • New hydration refill stations were installed on the first floor of Bonner Hall and the second floor of the Economics Building. Additional stations will be installed in the first floor lobby of the Structural+Materials Engineering Building and outside Taco Villa at Student Service Center A.
  • In accordance with the Sustainable Practices Policy, University of California campuses are to phase out and eliminate plastics. Plastics contribute to over a third of UC San Diego’s waste stream.
    • As part of the first phase of the policy, UC San Diego is working to eliminate plastic bags in retail and foodservice. Three years ago, the Sunshine Market, Bookstore and Audrey’s Café proactively eliminated plastic bags, switched to paper bags and plans to move to reusable bags.
    • In summer 2021, all single-use plastic cutlery will be eliminated.
    • In 2023, all UC campuses will no longer have single-use beverage bottles.


  • The campus improved its waste diversion rate to 43% in FY 2020, which was a 5% improvement from last year.
  • Other measures that have been implemented to reduce plastic waste on campus in advance of policy requirements include:
    • Housing*Dining*Hospitality launched the Triton2Go Mobile Ordering App and Reusable Container Program, which replaced the use of 75,000 disposable containers during Fall Quarter 2020.
    • Housing*Dining*Hospitality and Facilities Management installed more Hydration Locations, increasing the total to more than 120 on campus. (Note: New Hydration Locations are being added to the map.)
    • Plastic straws have been eliminated.
  • The campus received a City of San Diego Recycler of the Year Award.
  • Transportation Services expanded its pay-by-plate program for all pay stations via the Parkmobile app. Using license plates as a parking credential allows compliance staff to verify fee payments electronically and eliminates the need to produce, ship and distribute plastic and paper parking permits.

Ongoing Efforts

We are:

  • Reducing municipal solid waste generation to:
    • 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 follows the Practice Green Health metrics and is aiming for 20 lbs. of total solid waste per Adjusted Patient Day (APD) by 2025.

Organics Recycling

UC San Diego is working with our recycling and waste hauler to implement an organics recycling program by Fall Quarter 2021. EDCO’s new state-of-the art anaerobic digestion facility is expected to help us divert more than 1,000 tons of campus materials from landfills annually. Collected organic material will include leftover food scraps, paper towels and napkins, and eventually animal bedding from research laboratories. See EDCO flyer

Until we implement organics recycling campus wide this fall, you can find a campus garden that accepts food scraps. We use our composted waste to fertilize plants and grow healthier produce in our gardens.

Reducing Food Waste and Recycling Organics

Diverting food waste is an important step in achieving zero waste on our campus. See how you can reduce food waste and effectively recycle organics.

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.