May 2021 - Sustainability Champion of the Month: Bill Alderson

May 11, 2021

Bill Alderson is a hardworking Assistant Superintendent for the UCSC Grounds Resource Recovery Team. Even during the hectic year of COVID, Bill has been at the forefront of UC Santa Cruz's Zero Waste goal. Read on to learn more about the important work Bill does to keep UCSC green.


Bill Alderson

1. Tell us a bit about yourself, your background, and how your path led to where you are today.
I was involved in agriculture for most of my life in the central valley. My wife was working at Cabrillo College and commuting back and forth weekly. I felt like a change was needed and started looking for work here on the central coast. This was early in 2007. I was fortunate to get hired here in September of 2007 as a Groundskeeper. I moved into the Recycling department a couple of years later.  
2. You are seen as a hard worker who has been dedicated to zero waste for many years. Can you tell us about your zero waste “journey” on campus and projects you have been involved in?
I’m sure farming with its long hours and physical work helped my work ethic. There was a big learning curve moving into recycling from the central valley where most people didn’t take recycling or waste reduction very seriously. Being involved with the Sustainability office, Elida Erickson helped educate me tremendously. We are in the process of a compost collection pilot at multiple locations in campus housing as well as relabeling of our recycling container all over UCSC.
3. Being a fierce zero waste advocate, what are some challenges you encountered that you were able to overcome at UCSC?
Challenges! Where do I start? One of the long-term challenges has been educating the campus population to sort their waste streams correctly; contamination has been problematic. 
Short-term challenges are with changes due to COVID. Dining has needed to move to all take out due to health guidelines, and even though they are using compostables for their take out, we are struggling to keep contamination out of the compost stream!

4. UCSC’s recyclables are now being accepted in Marina. What is the story about using that facility and what is the process in a nutshell?
We have had complaints from the city of Santa Cruz facility on our contaminated recycling for years, and they finally said they were going to landfill it until we made significant headway cleaning it up. And they were correct. The facility at Monterey Regional has a much newer Material Recovery system, and with some work on our end, is happy with the recycling stream we are sending them. Unfortunately, it’s a 70 mile round trip with the driver and truck.

Bill pictured with the Grounds Resource Recovery Team 

5. As an essential worker, your efforts towards zero waste have continued during the “COVID year”. Can you tell us about what 2020 has been like, and how COVID has impacted your work and goals?
Unfortunately, COVID has changed the face of what we are able to do goal-wise. We would love to sort the Dining to-go bags to remove contamination, but with the possibility of causing airborne viruses by opening and dumping bags, we have decided not to take any chances of exposing employees to unnecessary risks. On the upside, with the limited population on campus, this has given us time for relabeling and repairing infrastructure.
6. What common misconceptions about waste exist at UC Santa Cruz that you want to clear up?
This is probably everywhere, but, "if I put something into the incorrect container, someone else will make the correction if I’m wrong".
7. I know you are a big supporter of student projects. If you could ask students to take 2 actions to support Zero Waste at UC Santa Cruz, what would they be?”
I would ask students to sort their waste streams correctly, and educate their peers to do the same.
8. What is the most rewarding part of your work?
The most rewarding part was probably knowing that what I do on a daily basis, may just have a small effect on the longevity of this planet.

9. What does Sustainability mean to you?
Not taking out more than you put back. Leave things better than when you found them.
10. Is there anything else about the work you do that you would like to share?
I am, and have been, very fortunate to work side-by-side with some brilliant people. My manager Julie Sutton, is very supportive and proactive. My co-worker Chris Leverenz, is a wealth of knowledge and experience. And my Resource Recovery team, Mario, Sal, Juan Carlos, Victor, and Frank, are the boots on the ground people who keep this campus clean and moving in a positive direction.  
11. Lastly, what do you do for fun outside of work?
I love playing tennis and wine tasting…oh, and talking. :)