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Zero Waste

UC Commitment

Achieve zero waste (defined as 90 percent diversion from landfill) at all locations except UC Health locations, which will have separate waste reduction goals.


  • The Housing*Dining*Hospitality digester at Sixth College aims to reduce food waste by over nine tons annually.
  • In accordance with the Sustainable Practices Policy, University of California campuses are to phase out and eliminate plastics. Plastics contribute to over a third of UC San Diego’s waste stream.
    • As part of the first phase of the policy, UC San Diego is working to eliminate plastic bags in retail and foodservice. Three years ago, the Sunshine Market, Bookstore and Audrey’s Café proactively eliminated plastic bags, switched to paper bags and plans to move to reusable bags.
    • In 2023, all UC campuses will no longer have single-use beverage bottles.
  • Total waste generation returned to pre-pandemic levels. Total waste diversion decreased by 6% to 42% in fiscal year 2020–21 compared to the previous year. The most significant factor was total waste generation increase of 48%. Programs such as green waste services and Surplus Sales had a lower positive impact this year.
  • In June 2022, the MESOM Kitchenette at Scripps Institution of Oceanography was stocked with reusable dishware purchased from The Goodwill, along with a new dish drying rack, reusable dish cloths and a compost bin to encourage building occupants to reuse whenever possible, especially to support zero-waste events and meetings.
  • In fall 2022, the Student Sustainability Collective opened a food scrap drop-off site at Seventh Market and distributed personal food waste collection buckets to students to make composting more accessible. Volunteers transport the waste collected at Seventh Market to Ellie’s Garden where ERC student gardeners compost it. This small-scale pilot program is diverting 40 pounds of food waste from the landfill every week. In 2023, this pilot expanded to Canyon Vista Marketplace where roughly 32 pounds of food waste is diverted per week. Sites are being researched to expand to more colleges.

Ongoing Efforts

See UC San Diego's Zero Waste Plan.

We are:

  • Reducing municipal solid waste generation to:
    • 25% per capita from 2015/2016 levels by 2025
    • 50% per capita from 2015/2016 levels by 2030
  • Striving to divert at least 90% of materials from landfill or incineration through recycling, composting, anaerobic digestion, etc.
  • Phasing out the sale, procurement and distribution of Expanded Polystyrene (EPS):
    • Ensuring that no EPS food serveware is used on campus (e.g., cups, clam shells, plates, etc.)
    • Working with suppliers to phase out EPS packaging for non-temperature sensitive products (e.g., office supplies, electronics, furniture, etc.)
    • Reducing, reusing and finding EPS alternatives for lab and medical packaging
  • Estimating greenhouse gas emissions from waste management practices

The UC San Diego Health System follows the Practice Green Health metrics and is aiming for 20 lbs. of total solid waste per Adjusted Patient Day (APD) by 2025.

Waste Sorting at UC San Diego


All recyclable materials can be placed in any campus recycling container, including office bins.

Mixed Paper (without bindings, rubber bands or paper clips;
staples don't need to be removed)

mixed paper

  • Any color paper and envelopes
  • Sticky notes
  • Manila folders
cCorrugated cardboard
  • Corrugated cardboard
paperbacks and newspapers
  • Newspaper
  • Magazines and catalogues
  • Phone books and paperback books
empty cartons
  • Paperboard beverage containers
  • Cardboard cartons
  • Boxboard (e.g., cracker or cereal boxes)
Empty Containers (with lids removed)
glass bottles and jars
  • Glass bottles and jars
rigid plastic containers
  • Plastic bottles, containers and lids with the #1-7 recycling symbol on the bottom
mixed metal containers
  • Aluminum, steel and tin cans/containers
  • Clean foil
Block Styrofoam
Styrofoam block
  • Block only – no Styrofoam packing peanuts

Be sure to:

  • Keep all trash out of recycling containers.
  • Flatten cans, plastic bottles and cartons whenever possible.
  • Empty and flatten all cardboard boxes before placing them inside recycling containers. Do not leave boxes near bins, dumpsters or on loading docks.
  • Empty liquids and food scraps from containers and ensure that they are clean and dry.

See how EDCO sorts items placed in recycling bins.

Note: Before purging paper files or generating large amounts of paper or beverage containers, contact the Facilities Management Customer Relations help desk, (858) 534-2930, at least 48 hours in advance to get a large temporary recycling container.

Other Recyclable Materials

Compostables (Organics)

 UC San Diego is implementing an organics recycling program. We expect that organics recycling will help us divert more than 1,000 tons of campus materials from landfills annually. Collected organic materials include:

Food Scraps 
food Raw, cooked or spoiled: 
  • Meat, poultry and seafood (including bones)
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Cheese
  • Dairy products
  • Grains, pasta, bread and baked goods
eggshells, nuts, tea leaves adn coffee grounds
  • Eggshells
  • Coffee grounds and tea leaves
  • Nuts, jelly, candy and snack foods
Food-Soiled Paper
food-soiled papers
  • Paper bags, towels, napkins, plates and cups
  • Tissues
food-soiled containers
  • Take-out containers and boxes (with no plastic or wax coating and metal removed)
coffee filter and teabag
  • Coffee filters
  • Tea bags
Natural Fibers
natural fibers
  • Wooden Popsicle sticks
  • Toothpicks
  • Chopsticks
  • Stir sticks
  • Untreated wood
  • House plants/flowers

Some campus gardens accept these items in compost bins:

  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Eggshells and nutshells
  • Coffee grounds/filters
  • Tea bags
  • Paper and cardboard (uncoated, cut into small pieces)
  • Shredded newspaper
  • House plants/flowers
  • Hair and fur
  • Fireplace ashes (from natural wood only)
  • Yard trimmings, including leaves, grass clippings, hay, straw, sawdust and wood chips

Be sure to:

  • Keep all trash out of compost containers.
  • Remove all plastics/bioplastics.


Soft and Small Plastics
plastic bags and wrap
  • Shopping bags
  • Wrap and film
snack bags and wrapper
  • Snack bags and wrappers
plastic straw and utensils
  • Straws
  • Utensils
razor and toothbrushes
  • Disposable toiletries
Mixed Materials
coated paper
  • Wax- and plastic-coated paper
coffee pods
  • Coffee pods
latex gloves and mask
  • Uncontaminated latex gloves
  • Masks
fabric, string, sponge
  • Fabric
  • String, yarn and rope
  • Sponges
clamshell and packing peanuts Styrofoam:
  • Clamshells,
  • Packing peanuts 
  • Plates, cups, etc.
other items

Other items:

  • Notebooks
  • Condiment packets
  • Toothpaste and ointment tubes
  • Adhesive tape
  • Ceramic items
  • Treated wood
  • Paint brushes and colored or wooden pencils

How to dispose of:


For more information about recycling or to report problems, contact the Facilities Management Customer Relations help desk, (858) 534-2930, 7 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. weekdays.