UC Merced is largely known for its green and sustainable initiatives which aim to reach the school’s pledge for Triple Zero Commitment (zero energy consumption, zero landfill waste, and zero net production of greenhouse gases by the year 2020). Although we have been continuously praised for our sustainability practices here at UC Merced, do we still have any idea where our waste goes after we place it into the blue, green, or black trash bins? The UC Merced’s recycling program focuses on assuring sustainability-friendly initiatives that lead the UC Merced campus into a greener future. However, in order to achieve a greener campus we must first understand what happens to all the waste students discard.
So, what happens to that empty chip bag we just placed into the black trash bin? After being thrown out, facilities are in charge of sending all trash to the Corp Yard. The Corp Yard is a messy terrain filled with trash bags that are moved by a conveyer belt and are then sorted by a team of students. The student team rummages through the bags, placing waste in either compost, landfill, or recycling. UC Merced is currently the only UC in the system to sort trash in efforts to reduce campus waste. According to data found by the UC Merced Recycling program, upper campus landfill makes up approximately 17.6% of waste, while recycling is 23.3% of recycling, and compost takes up 59% of the waste. Due to these large differences in numbers in landfill between the lower half and upper half of the campus, Housing and Dining are now meeting with UCM Recycling to create a process for taking waste materials from Housing and Dining to be sorted by UCM Recycling. In order to become as green as we can be, students must take initiative in ways to reduce waste. Laura Hanel, the sustainability lead at UC Merced urges for students to, “reduce first, then reuse, and recycle as a last resort. We’d like people to know that when they throw something “away,” it doesn’t just disappear. It goes to Merced Landfill where it is dumped into a large pit and capped off.”
It is entirely crucial for students to encourage others and practice more sustainable methods when disposing of waste. All waste fits in either three of the following criteria: landfill, compost, or recycling. As shown in the pictures below, credits to UCM Recycling, it is easy to identify whether to compost, throw away, or recycle your products.
With the help of all students, we will be able to reach zero landfill by 2020 and have the possibility of a greener future. An alternative method also lies in speaking out about the waste from lower campus and discussing the negative repercussions of being wasteful. Think before throwing away; is it entirely necessary to eat that plastic wrapped chocolate bar? Check any wrappers for the recycling symbol, and be more conscientious of what you buy.
Photo Credit: Katherine Cervantes; UCM Recycling (Graphs and Slideshow)