Baby Steps to Big Change at Pauley Pavilion

By Rachel Chung

After a long week of our behavioral and trash audit at the UCLA vs. Colorado basketball game and the subsequent data processing, our hard work paid off when we got to present our findings, questions, and suggestions to our stakeholder, Rich Mylin of UCLA Recreation. The goal of our meeting was to brainstorm potential changes and solutions that are both reasonable and effective.

There are many drastic measures that we could take to reach zero-waste at Pauley Pavilion quickly (e.g. banning all plastic cup covers and straws). But perhaps one of the most difficult parts of our project is finding simple, plausible solutions that will decrease landfill waste and fit within the ASUCLA/UCLA Rec concessions budget while also pleasing a variety of parties’ divergent needs. For example, banning plastic cup covers would not be a sensible option in the Pavilion because attendees walking through stands and crowds would have a greater chance of spilling on the surrounding people, leading to an unhappy crowd and an increase in janitorial work at the end of events.

So, when we sat down with Rich, we presented him with a number of immediately solvable problems and potential solutions that we identified during our audit:

  1. Utensils at concession stands are distributed in “packets” – a fork, knife, napkin, salt and pepper combination wrapped in plastic. We should provide bulk, individual, greenware utensils at concessions stands, similar to what is provided at the food courts in Ackerman Union.
  2. Nacho chips are sold in individual serving plastic chip bags. Nachos can be served in bulk chip, bulk nacho cheese sauce format, similar to how popcorn or pretzels are served.
  3. The majority of trash after the game is left under the seats. After the “Bruin Shuffle,” there is time for a 5 second reminder for attendees to take their trash with them when they leave.
  4. The dedicated custodial staff tends to “pull” trash bags when they are 1/3 full or less in anticipation of heavy usage later in the game. The custodial staff should pull trash bags less frequently, for example, when they are at least 50% full or more. This should not create an overflow of trash because our audit showed that trash bins fill at a generally slow rate, although there are specific times of higher traffic that can be targeted more.
  5. Black trash bags are not recyclable or compostable. Depending on our waste composition, Athens will accept recyclable green and clear bags marking “compost” and “recyclable” materials.
  6. Some trash cans in certain areas (e.g. the corners of entrances) receive little to no traffic throughout the entire game, and trash cans in different areas receive different kinds of trash. Bins outside of bathrooms, for instance, receive large amounts of paper waste. Recycling bins are not large enough, and there are no composting options. Many of these problems can be solved by creating strategically placed “waste islands.” These islands would contain a variety of labeled bins (compost, landfill, plastic, glass, etc.) and could be moved as a unit to various areas of Pauley Pavilion where there is high traffic and a lot of waste generated, such as the north-facing entrances. The islands would attract a lot of attention, have very clear signage and directions, and may provide advertising space on the sides of the bins. They would consolidate a lot of waste, educate users, maximize the use of space, and streamline sorting of landfill, compost, and recyclable materials.
Pauley Pavilion's current waste bins (Source: Rachel Chung)

Pauley Pavilion's current waste bins (Source: Rachel Chung)

An example of a proposed waste bin "island" (Source:

An example of a proposed waste bin "island" (Source:

Thankfully, our ideas and proposals were met with great enthusiasm! Rich offered to arrange a meeting between our action research team and the UCLA Recreation Marketing Team to design appropriate signage, and in future weeks, we will further research pricing and options for all of our suggestions. It is encouraging and reassuring to now have tangible means to reach our goals, and the Zero-Waste Pauley Pavilion ART is now on their way to making Pauley just that – zero-waste!