Waste reduction and diversion at CSUMB

As you are settling into your new routine of classes, assignments, work schedules and hopefully a little self care, we hope you’ll consider settling into a new routine when it comes to your trash, too.

Many of us are accustomed to recycling our bottles, cans and paper, but our campus has also begun recycling its food waste.

When food ends up in landfills it takes up a lot of space and releases methane – a greenhouse gas 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide (CO2) – into the atmosphere, accelerating the climate crisis. California law requires high-waste generators to participate in a recycling program and keep their organic waste out of landfills through food waste diversion or composting.

During your time at California State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB), you can help fight the climate crisis by making sure you know how to sort your waste. If you have been to the library, Student Center or University Center, you have probably seen a three-stream station. They have three different cans: one for landfill waste, one for recycling and one for food waste/compost.

Even though the stations have signage depicting the types of materials accepted in each can, it can be pretty confusing trying to decide what goes where. Here are a few rules of thumb to help you with sorting your waste:

When it doubt, throw it out! It’s better to send one thing to landfill than to contaminate the recycling or compost. When there are inappropriate items in those cans, they have to be sent to the landfill.

Recyclable materials need to be relatively clean, empty and dry. Dump your liquids in the sink and rinse excess food out of plastic containers. And yes, you can leave the lid on your glass and plastic bottles!

CSUMB Dining Services uses a lot of compostable disposable to-go packages. These need to make it to the green compost can to be processed by the anaerobic digester. These items do not break down in the landfill and they are not recyclable, so unless they make it to the compost container, they are going to end up as trash. If the item is BPI-Certified compostable, it needs to go into the compost can. This is the symbol to look out for on compostable containers:

Of course, the best and most effective way of keeping waste out of landfills is to reduce what you are consuming in the first place by bringing your reusable cup, drinking straw, and cutlery with you, shopping with reusable bags, saying no to single-use plastics like produce bags, and avoiding purchasing products packaged in unnecessary plastic.

The better we can be about properly sorting our waste, the more we will be able to keep out of landfills, leading to a slowing of the climate crisis and reducing or eliminating the need to build new landfills. You have an opportunity to make a real difference in reducing contamination and increasing diversion by taking the time to make sure you are disposing of things correctly.

The Monterey Regional Waste Management District has a neat app to help make things clearer. You can download the What Goes Where app for free, enter in our zip code – 93955 – type in an item you aren’t sure how to sort and it will tell you how to dispose of it.

Still have questions about waste reduction and diversion? GreenWaste Recovery is CSUMB’s garbage hauler and has an environmental outreach coordinator to answer questions, provide education and information about waste. Feel free to contact her with any questions.

If you are an Otter who is passionate about waste reduction and diversion, contact Carolyn to learn more about becoming a Zero Waste Ambassador. This team of volunteers will help other Otters sort their waste, participate in waste audits, provide education and outreach around waste diversion, and other creative activities related to spreading awareness around waste. Contact Carolyn at [email protected] for more information.

Welcome to another school year. Happy sorting and remember to keep it classy, not trashy!

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