Zero waste initiative progress assessed at campus meeting

Brooke Whitney/Staff

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A recent ASUC Senate resolution that established disapproval of the campus’s lack of progress in its Zero Waste by 2020 Initiative prompted a meeting between campus officials and student groups Monday, in which they discussed the program’s current plans and past shortfalls.

Some perceived SR 27, which passed last week, as a criticism of campus efforts to meet its 2020 90 percent waste reduction goal after a component of the goal — a 75 percent reduction in landfill waste by 2012 — was not met. According to the resolution’s sponsor, ASUC Senator Rigel Robinson, however, the resolution was meant to critique the lack of funding provided to environmental initiatives on campus and not to critique the work done by campus groups.  

“There are much bigger funding issues that are preventing them from being on the intended timeline,” Robinson said.

Though the 2012 goal was not met, members of the commission said at the meeting the initiative remains on track to meet its long term goals.

“I guess ‘on track’ is an optimistic wordplay,” said Kira Stoll principal planner for long range planning and sustainability. “We missed the first goal, and so now we’re focusing on the 2020 goal.”

According to a campus sustainability report from July 2016, the campus diversion rate has increased to 54 percent. Statistics from the Residential Sustainability Program have found the campus ranks last among UCs in the percentage of waste diverted from landfills.

Stoll said the campus has made progress in reusability efforts, such as establishing the new student thrift store in the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union.  It is harder to measure the waste reduction that results from reuse, Stoll said, than it is for other strategies such as recycling.

The meeting hosted a variety of campus organizations, including student associates from the Zero Waste Research Center and Director of the Student Environmental Resource Center Katherine Walsh.

Anissa Hagedorn, activation and administrative coordinator of the campus’s University Partnership Program, presented on upcoming business alliances intended to further assist the campus in meeting zero waste goals.

Hagedorn discussed a partnership with Brita that will provide all freshman students living in the residential halls with a free filtered water bottle after winter break. The bottle will also sell at the student store for about $16 to $20, not including a separately sold filter, Hagedorn said.

In addition, the UC Office of the President’s Associate Director of Sustainability Hilary Bekmann said the university is working on a forthcoming zero waste strategy that will apply to the entire UC system. Bekmann also noted difficulty in allocating sufficient funds to accommodate all sustainability projects, such as the UC carbon neutrality initiative and its Global Climate Leadership Council.

“Zero waste is one thing on top of a lot of other things,” Bekmann said.

Contact Audrey McNamara at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @McNamaraAud.