The university’s waste reduction strategy goes beyond recycling bins, it’s about changing people’s behavior toward the simple act of throwing something away. To support community awareness, the university holds zero-waste events when possible.
The simple reason? When there are no trash cans, people notice.
Prior to the pandemic, Rebel Recycling worked with event coordinators to help plan zero-waste events. The waste that these events generate is 90% compostable or recyclable. As the campus returns to in-person events, Rebel Recycling will be redoubling its efforts to promote awareness of sustainability measures.
“On-campus events are when students, faculty, staff, and the community at large make meaningful connections,” Pike says. “It’s powerful when a student attends a special event and doesn’t see a trash can.”
One of Rebel Recycling’s goals as events return is to collaborate with more campus partners to offer zero-waste events. These events are cleaner than your average gathering. Gone are the trash cans overflowing with potato chip bags and plastic water bottles. Instead, bulk potato chips are placed in serving bowls so that people may use (sanitized!) tongs to serve themselves. Beverages are served in recyclable cans — or attendees may use one of the many hydration stations nearby to refill their own water bottle instead of grabbing a new, plastic one. Once an attendee finishes their meal, they may throw their soda can, compostable plate, and utensils into the appropriately marked bins then walk away with a full reusable water bottle.
These small mindful actions make people pay attention to what they’re throwing away, what is recycled, and what is composted and build a lasting personal responsibility for the environment.
A successful zero waste event is not the end of Rebel Recycling’s efforts to reuse and recycle waste. They collect food waste from every kitchen on campus and send it to Las Vegas Livestock, a sustainable local pig farm, to be cooked into livestock feed.
For all of the plant-based materials the university cannot send to the pig farm, an in-vessel composter works to turn compostable forks and paper plates into soil. UNLV Athletics then uses that soil on the on-campus soccer, baseball, and track fields.
In 2019, the university recycled 176 tons of food waste.