Zero Waste Action Plan

As part of the goals for UBC's Climate Action Plan 2030 (CAP 2030), UBC will be updating its Zero Waste Action Plan to more strongly prioritize emissions reductions and circular economy opportunities including sustainable procurement and reuse. 
Sort it Out stations

UBC's Next Zero Waste Action Plan 

UBC is currently working on completion of the Zero Waste Action Plan 2030. Please see the below timeline for progress updates.

Zero Waste Action Planning Timeline

January - May 2022
January - May 2022


Public consultation phase of the plan. 

June - September 2022
Plan drafting
June - September 2022

Plan drafting

Draft emerging directions, targets, and actions for the plan. 

September - November 2022
September - November 2022


Present plan for governance committee review. 

Early 2023
Plan completion
Early 2023

Plan completion

Complete and finalize plan for launch in early 2023. 

While the 2030 plan is being developed, you can review the 2014 iteration of the Zero Waste Action Plan.

Zero Waste Action Plan 2014

The first Zero Waste Action Plan for the Vancouver campus included overall waste diversion targets of 70% by 2015 and 80% by 2020, and significant implementation work has been completed since its 2014 endorsement. Successes to date have included: 

  • A major expansion of UBC organic waste collection points, doubling composting volume; 
  • Multi-stream recycling stations have replaced nearly all individual garbage cans, providing access to recycling in virtually all locations; 
  • Specialty recycling programs and pilots have been expanded, including Styrofoam, soft plastics, single use gloves and amber lab glass; 
  • The UBC community has embraced zero waste goals and the Sort it Out program, and engagement and interest continues to increase among faculty, students and staff; 
  • Major construction projects have achieved high levels of waste diversion (88%, very close to the plan’s 90% target), most certified under the LEED green building rating system; 
  • Installation of a Return-it Express & Go beverage container recycling depot on campus; 
  • Piloting of waste dumpster sensors is underway, to improve data collection and collection efficiency. 
  • Despite these successes, and the fact that there has been a slight decrease in per-capita waste generation and disposal, waste diversion rates outside capital building projects fell short of targets and have hit a plateau in the last several years.

As part of UBC’s Climate Emergency Declaration, community input in early 2020 indicated that waste continues to be a priority area. It is also evident from research that a circular economy has the potential to dramatically contribute to GHG emissions reductions globally and at UBC, and aligns with the UBC Board of Governors’ adoption of four priority Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), including SDG12, Sustainable Consumption and Production.   

The 2022/2023 update to the Zero Waste Action Plan will leverage emerging circular economy research and initiatives, renewed focus on procurement and reuse initiatives as well as waste operations infrastructure, and the CAP2030’s commitment to integrating climate justice and social sustainability to apply a new lens to the challenge and opportunities of creating a zero waste community at UBC.  

In December 2021, the Board of Governors endorsed the Climate Action Plan 2030.  CAP2030’s Waste & Materials section for the Vancouver campus included a directive to initiate a process for updating the Zero Waste Action Plan, including refining and integrating the CAP2030’s other waste-related actions.  

Following this leadership endorsement, the ZWAP 2030 process for UBC Vancouver launched in February 2022 with the creation of a number of Working Groups, each focused on the following topics: 

  • Procurement and Reuse 
  • Waste Operations 
  • Student Housing  
  • Food 
  • Labs 
  • Engagement & Outreach 
  • Construction Waste 
  • Performance Monitoring 
  • Circular Economy and Research 

Working group membership includes staff, faculty, student and external subject matter experts.  

Specifically, the working groups are responsible for refining and developing options that will support CAP2030’s new target for the ZWAP update:  

UBC will apply a circular economy lens to enable a 50% reduction in waste disposal by 2030 (despite growth), progressing toward a zero waste community. 

This goal may be further refined during the plan update process, including developing additional targets and metrics.  

ZWAP2030 actions will also be informed by what is heard through the spring 2022 ZWAP2030 Public Consultation period and the UBC Climate Action Plan 2030 Public Engagement that took place in March 2021. 

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.  

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. 

Zero Waste Metrics 2022


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Take action now: 

While we explore how to best further circular economy initiatives on campus, there are still many ways to get involved with zero waste.