In an effort to improve campus recycling, the university began phasing out concrete block trash cans in favor of newer, more ergonomic waste disposal bins this month.
The new bins align with the campus’s goal to reach zero waste by 2020, according to a statement from the Green Initiative Fund, a student-supported fund that helped finance the bins’ development.
A main reason for introducing the new bins is that emptying the old cement bins was a primary contributor to the $320,000 in workers’ compensation the campus spent from 2004 to 2009 for trash-lifting injuries, said Greg Ryan, an ergonomist with University Health Services.
“One of the goals of the project was to reduce the ergonomic strain on the body,” Ryan said.
Ryan explained that removing heavy trash liners from bins that open from the top puts strain on the shoulder and back due to the lifting involved.
The new bins, which are closed on top, are better at keeping out rain and pests, said Christine Shaff, communications director for UC Berkeley’s Facilities Services.
According to Shaff, the new bins are being manufactured locally by a company in Richmond and cost $875 each.
The bins are also designed to be interchangeable, said Michal Shuldman, a graduate student in the department of integrative biology who initiated the project as a member of the Graduate Assembly’s Sustainability Committee.
“The name plates and the openings (the different colors and shapes) can be changed out depending on what waste stream needs bins,” said Katherine Walsh, coordinator of the Green Initiative Fund, in an email.
The university intends to place compost bins in the future, but right now, the new bins around campus are for landfill, mixed paper, bottles and cans, Walsh said.
The current installment of bins follows a multiple-year development and implementation process.
“Lots of people played into the (development) process … it was a collaboration between graduate and undergraduate students … and many others,” Shuldman said.
Shuldman wrote a grant through the Green Initiative Fund for more outdoor trash bins on campus. At the same time, Theron Klos, the campus’s grounds operations manager, requested funds for new bins because of the health hazards associated with emptying cement bins, and the two decided to pool finances toward their common goal, Shuldman said.
Students from the UC Berkeley College of Environmental Design created 3-D renderings of possible designs. After the mock-up stage, more than 10 prototypes were considered before settling on the final version, Ryan said.
New containers will be installed over the next three months, starting with areas near Upper Sproul Plaza, Dwinelle Hall, Wheeler Hall, Doe Library, Moffitt Library, California Hall and Memorial Glade, Walsh said in an email.
As a last step, Shuldman suggested an education project to ensure bins are used properly and the establishment of a “waste audit” to monitor improvement.