Zero Waste and Awareness Program Description

Zero Waste LogoAddressing our waste stream can simultaneously decrease costs and environmental impacts. Hauling trash costs 4-5 times more per ton compared to hauling recycling or food scraps for composting. Recycling decreases overall energy and water use and saves valuable resources. Food scraps buried in the landfill decompose and release methane gas that is 21-23 times more potent as a green house gas than CO2. By diverting food scraps to composting we decrease this impact on climate change and create a valuable soil amendment used by agriculture and landscaping that returns valuable nutrients to the soil and conserves water.

SBCC’s Zero Waste and Awareness Program is designed to reduce waste and maximize re-use and recycling practices by providing greater opportunities for participation and education. By focusing on our waste stream we address resource use and sources of pollution in our sensitive coastal environment. The program has a five-pronged approach:

  • Reduce
  • Re-use
  • Recycle
  • Proper disposal of hazardous materials
  • Educate

The program aims to increase awareness by:

  • Reducing unnecessary materials that become waste by implementing and expanding    environmentally preferable purchasing practices;
  • Increasing re-use of material on campus (e.g. furniture)
  • Improving the existing recycling program to achieve 80% overall diversion of campus waste by 2012, matching the goals set by the City of Santa Barbara.
  • Collecting pre-consumer and post-consumer food scraps for composting.
  • Increasing proper disposal of hazardous waste including batteries and e-waste.
  • Educating and demonstrating the importance of reducing waste, re-using materials and recycling as a “living laboratory” for our students and community.

The Zero Waste and Awareness Program is implemented by the Center for Sustainability, campus Facilities and Operations, including Food Services and Purchasing with funding from the James S. Bower Foundation and in partnership with the City of Santa Barbara.

What can be recycled?

All blue office recycling bins are emptied into larger campus recycling dumpsters, so whatever is acceptable in the dumpster is acceptable in the blue office bins (within reasonable size). All recyclables can be mixed together in the container. Please do not place anything in bags. Dump your loose recycling in the container and either keep your plastic or paper bag or put it in the recycling dumpster. Please flatten cardboard boxes. Plastic food or beverage containers must be rinsed and free of food or liquid. Removing lids and rinsing containers is recommended and makes them easier to recycle. It is not necessary to remove labels, rings, staples, paper clips or other items.

Contact us to get posters showing what is recyclable that you can place in common areas, or download the recycling guides listed below.

What can be composted?

All food scraps, napkins, paper plates, coffee cups, To-Go containers from the campus cafeteria, greenwaste, coffee filters, tea bags, egg shells, etc. can be composted in the yellow colored bins located at the Cafeteria (East campus) at peak meal times. We are starting with a pilot program centering on peak times and will evaluate the possibility of phasing the program into full-time availability.

The City of Santa Barbara Pilot Foodscrap Recycling and Recovery Program

Foodscraps and compostable paper generated by business and residences accounts for 20,000 tons of waste annually in the City of Santa Barbara. This represents 27% of all franchised trash currently disposed of in Tajiguas landfill. When foodscraps, greenwaste, and other organic materials are buried in landfills, they decompose anaerobically and contribute to climate change and air pollution by producing methane (CH4) and Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) . Landfills account for 34% of total methane generation in the United States representing the largest source of human produced methane. Methane is 21-23 times more efficient at trapping heat than carbon dioxide (CO2), and is thus a significant contributor to climate change. Compost produces only a fraction of the greenhouse gases (GHGs) compared to landfilling organic material. Composting is a cost effective way to mitigate these impacts, while simultaneously producing a nutrient laden amendment critical to healthy soil.

The City of Santa Barbara has taken substantial steps towards implementing a citywide composting program with the launch of the pilot Foodscrap Recycling and Recovery Program in April 2007. This pilot has gathered both crucial operational data and substantial community interest in the last ten months. So far, 250,000 pounds of food has been collected from 11 participants and commercially composted by Engel and Gray, Inc. of Santa Maria. This program represents the first of its kind on the South Coast, and one of fifty municipal programs in the country.

A diverse range of businesses are included in the pilot, varying in size from Coffee Cat coffee shop (75 lbs daily) to Santa Barbara City College (nearly 350 lbs daily). The other businesses currently participating in the collection program are Harding School, Cottage Hospital, The Berry Man, Aldos Italian, Santa Barbara Zoo, Pete’s Coffee (Uptown), Sojourner Restaurant, Trattoria Vittoria, Mesa Produce, and Peabody Charter School. This represents a large cross section of the foodscrap-generating business community. The success of the pilot indicates that a commercial collection program is logistically feasible and can help to achieve 70% and higher diversion goals.

  • Themelis, Nickolas J. Ulloa, Priscilla A. Methane generation in landfills
  • Renewable Energy, Volume 32, Issue 7, June 2007, Pages 1243-1257
  • Fitzgerald, Garrett. Parra, Maria. Ramel, Alex. An Analysis of the Issues Involved in Landfill Gas Recovery Rates.
  • ICLEI. 2007.
  • United Nations Environment Programme. Climate Change 2001: Technical summary.