Associated Students UCLA restaurants may begin composting leftover food and paper packaging this year in locations such as Ackerman Union and Lu Valle Commons.
At a monthly meeting Friday, the ASUCLA Services Committee discussed two proposals, one of which would place composting bins in kitchen areas of Ackerman Union, Lu Valle Commons and the North Campus Student Center. The other proposal plans to add composting bins to dining areas and patios for consumer use as well as make all of Lu Valle Commons’ food packaging compostable.
Officials are considering the composting program in part to fulfill a University of California mandate of sending zero waste to landfill by 2020, diverting the university’s waste to recycling or compost instead.
ASUCLA Director of Special Projects Karen Noh presented the proposals Friday for composting in restaurants in buildings owned by ASUCLA. The Untitled Cafe, Cafe Synapse and Cafe 451, among others, will not be included in the project.
The proposal for composting in ASUCLA restaurant kitchens would cost about $12,000 per year in additional hauling costs, Noh said. The cost for a Lu Valle Commons consumer trial would total another $21,300 annually, she added.
If all ASUCLA restaurants converted to composting, both in the kitchens and in the dining areas, the program would cost about $108,500 each year, Noh said. She added that most of the cost would go toward purchasing biodegradable food packaging, which is already used in Ackerman Union’s Greenhouse.
ASUCLA can only make the switch to composting in buildings owned by the organization, such as the Court of Sciences Student Center, Ackerman Union, Lu Valle Commons and North Campus Student Center, she added. UCLA dining halls and the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center already compost.
UCLA still sends 34 percent of its overall waste to landfill. ASUCLA’s operations account for 10 percent of UCLA’s waste sent to landfill, Noh said.
The proposed composting project could divert much of the waste from ASUCLA restaurants to an industrial composting site, where it would biodegrade, Noh said.
Of ASUCLA’s waste in 2014, 72 percent – mostly food waste and potentially recyclable items – was sent to landfill, Noh said. Most of the waste sent to landfill could have been composted or recycled, she added.
“This (project) really depends on everyone understanding and doing the right thing every single time they throw something away,” Noh said.
Some board members at the meeting expressed concerns over the cost and effectiveness of switching to composting all at once.
Carly Calbreath, an ASUCLA undergraduate representative and a third-year geography/environmental studies student, said she has noticed some students do not compost on the Hill even where facilities are available because she thinks it takes time for people to form a habit of composting.
“I think we’d all like to move to full-blown composting,” said Bob Williams, executive director of ASUCLA. “But first, let’s make sure that people can do it.”
Carlos Quintanilla, Undergraduate Students Association Council Facilities commissioner, said USAC has been asking ASUCLA to begin composting over the past year. Even if students are not used to composting, he said he is confident students will want to learn because he thinks the California drought has made some students more environmentally conscious.
Quintanilla said he thinks the consumer trial plan would be a good first start, but that ASUCLA should go with the more encompassing $100,000 plan.
Sean Murphy, a fourth-year environmental science student, said she is glad ASUCLA is considering the composting initiative.
In Murphy’s first year at UCLA, she was part of an action research team through the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability that presented a proposal to ASUCLA for composting at Lu Valle Commons, which they voted against, she said.
“I think just the fact that Karen is presenting this now is a good sign,” Murphy said.
To address the cost of the potential composting system, Noh suggested using about $10,000 to $15,000 of the money currently allocated for compostable packaging at Greenhouse in Ackerman Union, which she said goes in the regular trash because there are no composting bins there.
Noh said she plans to make a new financial chart combining the costs of the kitchen composting and Lu Valle Commons consumer composting proposals, including redirected money from Greenhouse, to present to ASUCLA’s financial committee in April.