Zero Waste Action Plan

UBC’s Zero Waste Action Plan (2014) outlines our commitment to reaching new milestones in waste reduction and management, and what we’ll need to do to increase waste diversion towards our 80% target, and reduce waste disposal each year.
Sort it Out stations

Download the Zero Waste Action Plan


UBC’s Zero Waste Action Plan targets 80% overall waste diversion by 2020. This means that 80% of the waste we generated will be reused, composted or recycled, rather than disposed to landfill.  Improving our campus recycling infrastructure is a major part of how we can achieve our goal.

However, recycling does not happen without the participation of our entire community. Through campus-wide engagement programs, behavioural change campaigns and awareness building activities, we encourage everyone at UBC contribute to building a zero waste campus and a circular economy

For an overview of how you can contribute to our Zero Waste goals at UBC, including the Sort-it-Out program, visit the UBC Sustainability Initiative.

The Zero Waste Action Plan

Meeting our waste diversion targets will require innovation and strategic partnerships, but we are committed to achieving the environmental and economic benefits associated with doing so.


The Zero Waste Action Plan targets are:

  • 70% waste diversion by 2016
  • 80% waste diversion by 2020
  • Ongoing reductions in the amount of waste sent to landfill each year

Successes to Date

Implementation has been ongoing since 2014. We update our recycling and waste performance metrics every year, and the implementation of our strategic plan is reviewed by the Zero Waste Committee every two to three months. Key successes to date have been: 

  • Over 700 recycling stations rolled out in buildings and outdoors – providing access to recycling and food scraps composting to the campus community.
  • Increased annual food scraps composting by over 400 tonnes per year - keeping food scraps out of the landfill and reducing GHG emissions.
  • Created the Zero Waste Squad volunteer program - engaging thousands of people on campus  to contribute to the Zero Waste Action Plan targets of waste diversion.
  • Created the Zero Waste Foodware Strategy to better manage and reduce single use items on campus. 

Sort it out compostable
Green compostable section of a Sort it Out station

What’s Next?

To progress toward our targets, we have many actions planned and underway. These include:

  • Starting in 2020, implement the Zero Waste Foodware Strategy to encourage the transition to reusable food service ware, reduce single use items and make recycling of these items easier.
  • Continue to update UBC waste collection processes and composting programs to increase effectiveness at the campus scale.
  • Monitor and track waste data to better identify opportunities to reduce waste.
  • Further develop our reuse programs to reduce the generation of waste and begin to transition to a circular economy including:
    • Strengthen reuse of institutional assets such as furniture, for example from renovations.
    • Increase reuse of items from residences.
    • Foster increased food service ware reuse programs such as Green2Go.
  • Continue to explore and develop new approaches to engage and educate the campus community.

Performance Metrics

Increasing waste diversion toward our targets has been challenging. However, disposal rates of waste to landfill has essentially held steady despite campus growth, which is a positive indicator. There is still much more to do in order to achieve our targets and we are excited to see future successes in meeting those targets.

The following chart shows how much waste (including both operational and construction/demolition waste) was diverted vs. disposed each year since 2010, resulting in the overall waste diversion shown by the blue line.

Materials & waste trends for the UBC Vancouver campus
Materials & waste trends for the UBC Vancouver campus

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