Recycling & Waste
20 Years of Sustainability at UBC
Creating a zero waste campus: our goal is to reach 80% composting and recycling by 2020.
At UBC, we have something called a ‘closed-loop’ system: we turn food and plant waste into compost that goes back into the ground without ever leaving campus. In 2004, we became the first Canadian university to invest in an in-vessel composter — a giant, fully enclosed eco-transmuter capable of processing five tonnes of organic waste a day. Located at the south end of the Vancouver campus, all of the compost produced there goes back into the soil and gets used for landscaping on campus.
Our Okanagan campus also boasts a composting system, with yellow compost bins on the main floor foyers of each building and smaller bins in the collegia and lunchroom spaces across campus. Organic material is collected three times a week and added to the campus composter — a 1,800-kilogram-capacity enclosed Earth Tub that can compost up to 45 kilograms per day.
In 2010 we eliminated the printed UBC telephone directory, replacing it with a digital version. This led to:
Turning trash into treasure
Necessity is the mother of invention, but the same could be said of waste. With some of the brightest minds in our midst, some truly inspired breakthroughs in tackling waste issues are happening at UBC. In 2015, UBC Vancouver engineering physics students Dennon Oosterman, Alex Kay and David Joyce created ProtoCycler, a tool to turn plastic waste into material for 3D printing. Forestry doctoral student Felix Böck made headlines in 2016 with his start-up ChopValue, a company that makes furniture out of recycled chopsticks. At UBC Okanagan, chemist Susan Murch has teamed up with Passive Remediation Systems Ltd. to explore how to pull contaminant chemicals out of the ground using poplar trees, and then use high-pressure steam extraction to recover these chemicals from the wood.
Interested in ways to create zero-waste environments?
Special thanks to our story partners: The UBC Sustainability Initiative and Campus and Community Planning and the many units, departments, and faculties at UBC that helped contribute invaluable information on sustainability for this story.
Story team: UBC Communications & Marketing — Cindy Connor, online producer; Cynthia Deng, web developer assistant; Margaret Doyle, digital storyteller; Paul Joseph, UBC photographer; Michael Kam, web developer; Adrian Liem, manager, digital communications; Mark Pilon, communication designer; Jamil Rhajiak, digital communications specialist; Matt Warburton, manager, graphic design; Aida Viziru, UX designer. Additional writing — Jessica Werb, content writer. Additional copywriting — David Leidl, copy editor.
Published: May 2017