A Zero Waste Initiative: Where does the stuff we throw out end up?

A box of donated items captured at the UBC Free Store in the Old SUB

During finals season last term, the Zero Waste team led a Donation Drive in the Ritsumeikan and Walter Gage residences at UBC. We encouraged residents to give us any household items they had in their units but were not using, such as clothes, books, blankets, and small appliances. Instead of disposing of these useful pieces as students might regularly do, we then donated these items to Aunt Leah’s Place as well as the UBC Free Store. Aunt Leah’s Place focuses on supporting youth who have recently aged out of foster care and young mothers, while the UBC Free Store allows any member of the UBC community to pick up small items for free.

Though this drive was held on a small-scale, we know that there will be a large amount of waste generated at the end of the academic year, when students plan to move out of their residences and perhaps return home for the summer or graduate. According to other students we have discussed this issue with, students tend to either throw away or simply abandon a grand amount of items that are perfectly good to re-use when they move out of their dorms. The amount of waste accumulated is disproportionate to the amount recycled. In order to divert this waste and truly turn it into someone else’s treasure, we thought it would be a good idea to continue last term’s initiative and set up the Donation Drive during finals season in various residences – first year and suite-style. Our hope is that through this plan, Zero Waste will flip the scales in terms of the ratio of recycling to garbage. Once again, we plan to work together with Aunt Leah’s Place and collect more reusable items to donate to the cause.

Aside from contributing to a good and locally-driven organization, running the Donation Drive in first term really made us reflect about where our waste goes, and how it is handled. It made us think about how much stuff we really need to use, and how to reduce the amount of items we buy day to day. The overall goal that the Zero Waste team is working towards is making UBC a waste-free campus. This means very little (ideally nothing) that is disposed of in the UBC campus ends up in the landfill. Through events of small and large scale, such as the Donation Drive and the Waste Audit, we hope to slowly inch towards our long-term goal. This can only happen with the support of all UBC students, faculty, and staff so we encourage everyone to come out to our events to learn more about our initiatives!


Written by: Uttara Kumar & Chelsey Kolenda | Zero Waste Co-coordinators of Common Energy UBC