UBC Vancouver will soon have less garbage to clean up across its campus.
The school is ditching plastic food ware and a popular student staple, single-use coffee cups, while encouraging students, faculty and staff to choose reusable options such as their own mugs, water bottles and cutlery.
The move is part of UBC’s Zero Waste Food Ware Strategy—adopted in June 2019—aimed at keeping as many single-use coffee cups, plastic straws, bags and cutlery out of landfills and the environment as possible. Straws will still be available upon request for accessibility purposes.
“Single-use plastic is a global problem that every community is tackling differently,” says Bud Fraser, planning and sustainability engineer at UBC. “As a long-standing leader in global sustainability, UBC has an opportunity to lead the region in reducing single-use items and to make an impact far beyond our community. This is an important step toward a zero waste future for food and beverage on campus.”
Starting in January, all food and beverage retailers on campus will be required to charge customers a separate fee for single-use items—initially coffee cups—to encourage the transition to reusable food ware. To avoid paying the fee, consumers can bring their own travel mug or choose to enjoy their drink in the store using a reusable mug.
Retailers—not UBC—will determine the single-use cup fee, which must be at least 25 cents, and will collect the fees. Retailers will determine how to use the fees, which may include applying them to offset the extra cost associated with transitioning to different products.
Retailers will also move toward offering smarter, more sustainable materials for single-use items, such as wooden cutlery that will be available upon request, and will discontinue certain items, such as foam cups and plastic bags. Customers are encouraged to bring their own cutlery. Improved in-store recycling bins and signage are also part of the strategy.
“Our largest food retailer, UBC Food Services, has already successfully implemented some of these changes, and the new strategy offers a unique opportunity to further reduce waste by extending these successful requirements to the wide range of retailers across campus,” says Victoria Wakefield, purchasing manager at UBC Student Housing and Hospitality Services. “With an aligned strategy that details how food is packaged and served, all UBC food and beverage retailers are able to participate and help elevate our zero waste activities to the level our students and the wider community are demanding.”