Trash-Free Waters

Marine Debris Campus Toolkit

Cover of the Marine Debris & Plastic Source Reduction Toolkit for Colleges & UniversitiesDownload the Marine Debris & Plastic Source Reduction Toolkit for Colleges & UniversitiesEPA, the Product Stewardship Institute, and the University of California collaborated on a Marine Debris & Plastic Source Reduction Toolkit for Colleges & Universities to help college campuses and other institutions cut their plastic waste, to help reduce marine debris and coastal pollution. The toolkit, funded by an EPA grant, resulted from a successful two-year pilot project by the Product Stewardship Institute at three coastal University of California campuses: UC Santa Barbara, UC San Diego, and UC San Francisco.

During the two-year project, all three UC campuses dramatically reduced their consumption of plastics. UC Santa Barbara saw a 97% decline in plastic bag use by campus food services through an agreement with their local Subway store to eliminate unnecessary packaging. By promoting campus hydration stations, the campus also eliminated over 60,000 single-use plastic water bottles. UC San Diego reduced plastic bag use by more than a million bags each year, working with their campus Subway restaurant to eliminate plastic bags and straw sleeves. UC San Francisco’s Parnassus and Mission Bay campuses retrofitted more than 50 water fountains with gooseneck spouts to fill reusable water bottles, cutting campus purchasing of single-use plastic water bottles by 50%, and saving $27,500 each year. 

The Campus Toolkit is a detailed “how to” guide for reducing plastic waste on college campuses and other institutions. It includes:
  • A Footprint Calculator to determine a campus’ "plastic footprint"
  • A source reduction plan to eliminate the use of disposable plastic items
  • Changing campus purchasing practices by switching to greener, lower-waste products, and
  • Establishing campus-wide plastic waste reduction policies.

“The toolkit enabled three of our campuses to identify sources of plastic waste, research solutions, and make concrete changes,” said Matt St. Clair, Director of Sustainability for the UC Office of the President. “We saw significant reductions in disposable plastics throughout all three campuses, and hope this toolkit will inspire change across the UC system.”

“Packaging makes up a large portion of marine debris and contributes to the huge gyres of trash that exist in our oceans, harming both marine life and human health,” said Scott Cassel, Chief Executive Officer at the Product Stewardship Institute. “The adoption of this toolkit by other universities could have a major impact on reducing marine debris in coastal watersheds, which has immense promise in the movement to rid our waterways of excess plastic.”

More information about the Product Stewardship Institute and the pilot project is available at: Exit