Saturday, April 4

Waste Awareness Week aims to boost student engagement with sustainable practices

Environmental student organizations such as the Renewable Energy Association and E3: Ecology, Economy, Equity, are hosting Waste Awareness Week to highlight the consequences of global waste mismanagement. Events include movie screenings, workshops and an art exhibition. (Axel Lopez/Assistant Photo editor)

UCLA student organizations are spreading awareness of the global waste crisis through a weeklong series of activities.

The Renewable Energy Association and other environmental student organizations are hosting Waste Awareness Week to highlight the consequences of global waste mismanagement. Events take place Monday through Friday and include movie screenings, workshops and an art exhibition.

Chirine Chidiac, REA programming committee member and third-year civil engineering student, said each day of Waste Awareness Week will have a theme such as world waste knowledge and waste at UCLA.

REA and 10 other sustainability organizations will hold workshops on specific aspects of the UCLA Zero Waste by 2020 campaign Wednesday.

E3: Ecology, Economy, Equity, an environmental group on campus, will host a workshop on alternatives to common single-use items such as plastic and paper utensils. The campaign will also be hosting a do-it-yourself deodorant, toothpaste and dry shampoo activity Thursday, said Andrew Jarvis, co-chair of E3’s Zero Waste Campaign and a fourth-year international development studies and geography student.

Chidiac said measures such as using three-stream disposal bins that separate recyclable, landfill and compostable waste and hosting collaborative student events like the Waste Awareness Week could reduce waste. However, she added it may still be difficult to eliminate 100 percent of landfill waste because certain materials cannot be recycled or composted.

“By the time the deadline of the goal happens, I think that we will at least achieve zero waste to landfills,” Chidiac said. “It’s very difficult because there are some mixed materials that are either not recyclable or compostable. … The whole idea is to divert as much waste as possible from landfills.”

Jarvis said the goal was not to produce zero waste but to reduce the amount of campus waste that goes to landfills to 10 percent by 2020.

“That means that trash is either going to recycling, compost or other recycling facilities and 10 percent is going to landfill. Very little waste that is actually produced should be going to the landfill,” Jarvis said. “There’s so much waste that is compostable or recyclable, especially with food waste.”

Carter Webb, a third-year environmental science student, is the president and founder of the Los Angeles Ocean Coalition, a club which focuses on promoting oceanic sustainability through education and activism. He said he thinks UCLA’s Zero Waste Initiative is unachievable and is more of a public relations stunt than an attainable goal, although it is a step in the right direction.

“I am fully committed to using no plastic in my lifestyle and I constantly do it anyway. – and that’s just plastic,” Webb said. “That’s not including food waste, that’s not including other waste mismanagement practices that we, as a first world country, have to deal with.”

Liliana Epps, a co-founder of the Environmentalists of Color Collective at UCLA and a third-year gender studies student, said although zero waste is a good goal to strive for, the idea may be inaccessible for members of underserved communities who may only be able to use cheaper disposable products rather than sustainable alternatives that cost more.

Chidiac said she hopes Waste Awareness Week increases student engagement in UCLA’s waste initiative.

“I think events like this week are also going to make a really big difference because we’ve partnered with a very large number of sustainable orgs on campus as well as the Zero Waste coordinator’s office. … We’re really touching a lot of different parts of campus,” Chidiac said.

Comments are supposed to create a forum for thoughtful, respectful community discussion. Please be nice. View our full comments policy here.