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Berkeley steps up to the plastic-waste challenge

Carol Ness
UC Berkeley News Center

Stepping up to the global challenge of trying to keep plastic waste from clogging waterways, coastlines and landfills, UC Berkeley is the first university in the world to embrace the Plastic Disclosure Project.

The project aims to use the concept of a plastic footprint — like a carbon footprint — as a way of stimulating change in the way the world deals with an important but problematic resource. It was co-founded by Berkeley alum Doug Woodring, who swam for the Golden Bears and graduated in 1988.

Berkeley’s effort will be managed by Campus Recycling and Refuse Services, in partnership with the Office of Sustainability. CRRS recently won funding from The Green Initiative Fund (TGIF) grant program. First, a campus audit will pinpoint and quantify sources of plastic waste, from water bottles to bread bags to disposable lab ware, and come up with a plastic footprint, according to Lin King, manager of Berkeley’s recycling and refuse services.

Then student interns will track where the plastic goes after it’s tossed or put into a recycling bin — most often, into a landfill, onto a boat for recycling overseas or into streams and oceans. The gathering and disclosure of the information is intended to drive both a broader awareness of the problem and a search for solutions that are cost-effective and environment-sparing, King says.

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