UBC to implement extra fee for disposable coffee cups and foodware for zero-waste strategy

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      If you're planning to eat or drink at UBC's Point Grey campus, you will want to consider taking your own mug and foodware.

      As part of its effort to reduce waste, UBC is implementing a strategy that will discourage single-use items and encourage reusable items for food and drink.

      Effective in January, all food and beverage retailers at UBC’s Vancouver campus will be required to charge customers an extra fee for single-use items, beginning with coffee cups.  

      According to a UBC news release issued today (November 25), retailers will determine their own fee amount (with a minimum of 25 cents); will collect the fees themselves, not UBC; and will determine how they will use the fees, such as by offsetting costs in transitioning to different products.

      Retailers will also begin using more sustainable materials for single-use items, such as wooden cutlery, while phasing out items such as foam cups and plastic bags.

      Customers who bring their own mug or opt to consume their beverage in store with reusable mugs (including using the student-led Mugshare program) won’t have to pay the extra fee.

      In addition to mugs and reusable water bottles, customers will be encouraged to bring their own cutlery. Straws will be available upon request for accessibility.


      UBC SEEDs and Campus and Community Planning commissioned a study in 2018 to examine the plastic recycling process—from Lower Mainland recyclers to overseas manufacturers—and the environmental impact upon ocean ecosystems.

      “Out of all the plastic food ware items, cutlery poses the most severe ingestion risk for seabirds, sea turtles, and marine mammals, while the plastic lining and lids from disposable coffee cups accumulate huge amounts of water-borne pollutants that may be toxic for the animals that ingest them,” Kaleigh Davis (who led the study with fellow then–graduate student Fiona Beaty) stated in a news release.

      The study’s findings contributed to the Zero Waste Food Ware Strategy, which the university adopted in June.

      The strategy—which was developed with the City of Vancouver and Metro Vancouver, and in consultation with campus food businesses—is focused on the reduction of coffee cups and plastic cutlery, straws, and bags, and keeping them out of landfills and the environment.

      UBC staff will support transitioning retailers by meeting with food business representatives; offering a zero-waste assessment of current foodware products and recycling set-ups, which will include recommendations; and providing improved in-store recycling bins and signs, which aim to help prevent items from being deposited into incorrect recycling or composting bins.

      In 2017, over 1.7 million single-use coffee cups, 1.2 million plastic coffee lids, 2.3 million pieces of plastic cutlery, and 690,000 plastic bags were estimated to be used at the UBC Vancouver campus.

      The strategy aims to achieve 80 percent waste diversion by 2020.

      In addition to this strategy, in June UBC Food Services began purchasing and serving only Ocean Wise–recommended seafood at its Vancouver and Okanagan campuses as part of the institution's effort to help protect marine ecosystems and ocean health. 

      You can follow Craig Takeuchi on Twitter at @cinecraig or on Facebook