Zero waste is about reducing the amount of material we throw away in our daily lives. Much of the material leaving CSUN's campus is recycled, composted, or reused, but almost half of it, 4.25 pounds per minute, goes to a landfill where it will stay for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. CSUN's Zero Waste Plan focuses on reducing the amount of landfill-bound waste that is produced through campus operations. It also seeks to improve campus users' access to recycling and compost bins, so that materials like aluminum cans, plastic bottles, and food scraps can be turned into new products or healthy soil through the process of recycling or composting them.
The Zero Waste International Alliance defines Zero Waste as “a goal that is ethical, economical, efficient and visionary, to guide people in changing their lifestyles and practices to emulate sustainable natural cycles, where all discarded materials are designed to become resources for others to use. Zero Waste means designing and managing products and processes to systematically avoid and eliminate the volume and toxicity of waste and materials, conserve and recover all resources, and not burn or bury them.”
CSUN recognizes the significant detrimental impact that waste materials have on natural environments, communities, human health and wildlife. Even as plastic pollution chokes our rivers and oceans, people consume more single-use products than ever before.
Only an estimated 9% of all plastic products are recycled (Geyer, Jambeck, & Law, 2017), and up to 12 million metric tons of plastic end up in the world’s oceans every year (Jambeck, et al., 2015). Researchers estimate that by 2050, 99% of all seabird species will have ingested plastic, with 95% of the individuals in these species having ingested plastic by the same year (Wilcox, Van Sebille, & Hardesty, 2015).
Additionally, the energy use and resource extraction necessary to manufacture trillions of disposable products each year represents immense upstream environmental impacts. One million single-use bottles are purchased every minute worldwide, and plastic manufacturing consumes 4% of global oil production (Hopewell, Dvorak, & Kosior, 2009).
CSUN acknowledges that responsible waste management means not only utilizing proper disposal methods, but also reducing overall waste outputs. With these facts in mind, CSUN has adopted a Zero Waste Plan with the intent to significantly curtail waste generation on campus, increase the percentage of material going to recycling and composting facilities, and educate campus users on their role in Zero Waste practices.
CSU and State Goals:
In 2014, The California State University Sustainability Policy established the following goals regarding waste for all CSU campuses:
- Reduce solid waste disposal rate by 50% of 2006 levels by 2016
- Reduce solid waste disposal rate by 80% of 2006 levels by 2020
- Move to Zero Waste
The State of California has established a goal that 75% of materials generated will be source reduced, recycled, or composted by the year 2020. The following laws have gone into effect to support this goal:
- Assembly Bill 341 (Chapter 476, Statutes of 2011) requires generators of four cubic yards or more of solid waste per week to arrange for recycling services.
- Assembly Bill 1826 (Chapter 727, Statutes of 2014) requires generators to recycle their compostable materials with a phase-in schedule depending on the amount of compostable materials or solid waste they generate per week. CSUN produces more than the first compliance tier (8 cubic yards of compostable materials per week), and was required to compost those materials as of April 1, 2016.
- Assembly Bill 2812 (Chapter 530, Statutes of 2016), requires each state agency to provide adequate receptacles, signage, education, and staffing, and arrange for recycling services consistent with existing recycling requirements for each office building of the state agency or large state facility. The bill requires, at least once per year, each covered state agency and large state facility to review the adequacy and condition of receptacles for recyclable material and of associated signage, education, and staffing. Additionally, the bill requires each state agency to include in its existing annual report to CalRecycle a summary of the state agency’s compliance with the act.
CSUN’s Goal is to be diverting 95% of all campus waste products from landfills or waste-to-energy facilities, and to instead reuse, recycle or compost them, by the year 2025.
CSUN’s Zero Waste plan focuses on the source reduction of landfill-bound materials, as well as the diversion of compostable, recyclable or reusable material. Progress towards this goal will be tracked based on data from a variety of sources. The campus waste hauler, Asset Management, The University Corporation, The Institute for Sustainability, Food Recovery Network and Associated Students Sustainability all regularly report data on the weights of materials they collect and divert.