UCSC aims for zero waste in student move-out

Collection receptacles were placed in 33 locations across UC Santa Cruz.
Chris Attias, director of facilities for UCSC's Student Affairs, Housing and Dining, says the "Zero Waste" campaigns keep improving every year.
The Slug recycling logo raises awareness about the Zero Waste collection days.
Hannah Hodgson of Ecology Action was on campus to let students know about their recycling options.(photos by Dan White)

UC Santa Cruz senior Melissa Li remembers when students left everything from Brita filters to microwave ovens in their rooms before summer break. Once she saw a new-looking Xbox set.

But Li (Porter, molecular biology) says the situation is improving as UC Santa Cruz continues to work towards zero landfill waste.

As part of that campaign, UCSC, for the past few years, has been holding “Zero-Waste Move Out” events across the campus, making it easy for students to deposit household goods, electronics and other materials in collection bins.

"It’s getting better, definitely," said Li, who volunteered to help with this year’s eco-friendly move-out.

In conjunction with the nonprofit organization Ecology Action, UCSC has been diverting more than 60 percent of its waste from landfills. For the eco-friendly move-out, the campus partners with agencies that can use, sell or redistribute the house wares, toiletry items and electronics, giving them new life while keeping them out of the landfill. Those organizations include H.O.P.E. Services, Goodwill, Second Harvest Food Bank, and Homeless Services of Santa Cruz.

“We’ve done this for four years, and it keeps getting better,” said Chris Attias, director of facilities for UCSC’s Student Affairs, Housing and Dining. “It’s much more organized now.”

The campus, in conjunction with a UC system-wide goal, is hoping to produce zero landfill waste by 2020.  The university is taking this deadline seriously; last year, one participating nonprofit collected an estimated 10,000 pounds of materials during move-out.

Fewer students are leaving items in their room because volunteers have placed 33 recycling stations throughout the campus. Another incentive is the bills that students may receive if they abandon items in their dorms.

Hannah Hodgson of Ecology Action visited the campus to help with the move-out. Ecology Action recently received a two-year Multifamily Recycling Program grant that is bringing door-to-door recycling education to UC Santa Cruz, CSU Monterey Bay, and 270 multifamily housing complexes throughout Santa Cruz, San Benito and Monterey counties.

Hodgson greeted students as they walked past. “Are you moving out soon?” she asked one of them. “Do you know you can recycle and donate?”

Silas Snyder, UCSC's safety, training and conservation coordinator for housing services, said the “Zero-Waste” program also makes the move-out safer for workers responsible for clearing out materials left in dorm rooms. Fewer materials means less heavy lifting.

More than 6,000 students are clearing out of campus this week.

Even before the big move-out rush leading up to graduation, students were filling up bins with everything from unopened bottles of hand sanitizer to shrink-wrapped containers of coconut-scented body lotion. One bin contained a lamp, a comforter, and The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants Part II DVD.

The agencies that pick up these materials will decide if they can be resold or not.

Read the news story in the Santa Cruz Sentinel.