UCLA Recognized for Excellence in Zero Waste Efforts

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UCLA has been recognized by the National Recycling Coalition (NRC) with the Outstanding Higher Education Program Award, given annually to an institution of higher education to recognize exceptional efforts in waste reduction, recycling and building professional development opportunities for students with an interest in recycling technologies. 

“We appreciate NRC’s recognition of our efforts to eliminate waste and to boost resource recovery,” said Wong. “With the fast growing zero waste initiatives on campus, we strive to empower our entire Bruin community with not only foundational knowledge and skills, but with the resources for success to achieve our goals.”

The NRC highlighted UCLA’s efforts in boosting waste programs led by Kikei Wong, UCLA’s zero waste manager, including standardizing infrastructure and implementing centralized waste collection across more than 75 academic, administrative and research buildings to institutionalize visual cues, ease of service, and usability and reduce barriers to success. Concurrently, the campus transitioned to a centralized waste collection process, where desk-side bin service were discontinued and occupants must bring and sort their waste at a centralized waste stations. New "standard" bins were deployed across campus, consisting of three streams (compost, recycling, and landfill) and increasing accessibility, capacity, and ease of use for the community to compost and recycle.

The campus also expanded its Zero Waste Ambassadors student program, developed a strong social media presence and researched the barriers to zero waste on and off campus. These programs and initiatives strengthen UCLA’s endeavors to reach its zero waste goals by increasing accessibility of waste infrastructure and creating programming that meets the needs of the campus while providing students with professional development opportunities that prepare them for post-graduation. Recent alumni involved in the programs now work in local government, the UC system, non-profit organizations and waste haulers, while others have entered graduate school.

UCLA continues to build upon zero waste efforts with the implementation of the campus-wide single use plastics policy, adopted in October 2020. The policy phases out single-use plastics such as plastic bags, plastic foodservice items and beverage bottles, and instead transitions to reusable or locally compostable alternatives. This applies to all foodservice facilities, events, fundraisers and meetings that serve food or beverages on campus, and requires campus-wide collaboration and cooperation from students, faculty and staff. 

UCLA’s goals will be achieved with the support of every member of the UCLA community. To get involved or to find resources, please visit sustain.ucla.edu. Questions can be directed to zerowaste@ucla.edu.

You can also learn more about how UCLA Housing & Hospitality is supporting broader campus efforts by viewing its Sustainability Strategic Plan.