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Think Green

Think Green

A new partnership is part of a wide-ranging effort to increase sustainability at UCR.

(March 16, 2009)

RIVERSIDE, Calif. -- St. Patrick’s Day at UC Riverside will be greener this year due to a new program that will amp up the campus’ comprehensive recycling waste program, including diverting more than 1,000 tons of food trash from the landfill.

Last week, as part of efforts to achieve zero waste and a more environmentally friendly campus, officials from UCR and Athens Services signed a two-year contract with five one-year renewal options.

“This contract is the product of a lot of hard work on the part of dedicated staff motivated and energized by students and faculty,” said Al Diaz, vice chancellor for administration. “Not only will we be able to meet the goals for diverting waste, but it will add to our profile as an environmentally responsible and sustainable community.”

The City of Industry-based Athens Services provides waste management services for the city of Riverside as well as several cities and businesses in Los Angeles County. UCLA and USC are among its current clients. Athens Services President Eric D. Herbert said the company plans to immediately start fulfilling its first mandate: to reduce the amount of campus-generated food waste making its way to the landfill.

That’s a big task.

With more than 18,000 students, and more than 5,000 staff and faculty, food waste accounted for about 40 percent of the 3,963 tons of refuse generated on campus last year.

Here’s how it will work:

Using Athens-supplied containers, workers from each of UCR’s dining facilities will separate out compostable materials at the food court in the Highlander Union Building (formerly called the Commons), the residence hall dining areas, the Barn and kiosk-style food service locations on campus. Athens Services will collect and transport that waste to the company’s composting facility in Victorville. At no additional charge, Athens will return some of that food waste to campus in the form of nutrient-rich compost, which will be used for landscaping and agricultural purposes.

The agreement with Athens is part of UCR’s efforts to meet waste diversion targets set by the University of California Office of the President in July 2007. The mandate states that all UC campuses will institute programs designed to divert 50 percent of their waste from landfills by 2008, 75 percent by 2012 and 100 percent by 2020.

Mike Miller, assistant vice chancellor of facilities, said with the new program the campus could meet the 75 percent goal by the end of this year.

“This puts us way ahead of the curve,” said Miller.

Russ Lewis, director of material management, said Athens Services will charge the campus on a per-load basis.

Because the food waste reduction program is new it is difficult predict an exact cost, said Lewis, but he estimates that it will be close to the $200,000 to $250,000 that the campus currently pays for the campus-staffed refuse service to remove and transport waste to a local landfill.

Five companies responded to a request for proposals. Athens was chosen based on both cost and the ability to provide a range of recycling services.

The food waste program is just one area that the campus is developing to be more sustainable. Existing programs include recycling paper, cardboard and construction-site waste, offering fleet vehicles that use alternative fuels, and using recycled paper and soy-based inks for campus publications. The campus has an extensive alternative transportation program that encourages workers to vanpool, carpool or use other forms of transportation to get to work.

UCR has long been known for its research in the areas of alternative fuel, solar cells, alternative-fuel vehicles, and monitoring air and water quality. UCR also has several courses and research centers designed to train future environmental leaders.

All future buildings will be constructed to meet green building rating systems requirements and the campus continues to look for additional ways to operate in an environmentally friendly and energy efficient manner.

“Politically, fiscally and environmentally, — it’s the right thing to do,” said Miller.

The University of California, Riverside ( is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

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