Jun 19, 2024

Single-use plastic items like coffee cups end up at landfills. Photo by Jasmin Sessler on Unsplash.

With the proposed federal ban on single-use plastics, many retailers have started transitioning to reusable food ware and encouraging customers to use reusable options such as bringing their own coffee mugs and containers, water bottles and cutlery. 

Leading this campaign in BC is the University of British Columbia with its 60,000 students, 19,000 faculty and staff and 12,000 permanent residents in its university residential neighborhoods.  UBC as a public institution has declared a Climate Emergency to combat climate change starting on its campus.  

Starting in January, all food and beverage retailers on campus are required to charge customers a separate fee for single-use items such as coffee cups. To avoid paying the fee, customers can bring their own travel mugs or enjoy their drinks in the store using a reusable mug.  Retailers will determine the single-use coffee cup fee which must be at least 25 cents and will collect the fee. 

In 2017, 1.7 million single-use coffee cups,  2.3 million pieces of plastic cutlery and 600,000 plastic bags were given out on the UBC campus alone.  Many single-use items are often not disposed of in the correct recycling or composting bins. Thus they are challenging to sort which creates problems at composting facilities and degrades the quality and value of materials for recycling.

In consultation with some campus based retailers, UBC is also ensuring economic viability for the businesses.  It is working with affected retailers by offering a zero waste assessment of current food ware products, providing recycling setups with accompanying recommendations and signage and other incentives.

Nearby retailers outside the UBC campus are taking notice and adopting similar measures to reduce waste from single-use plastics. The grocery store Choices on 16th, for example, is giving out free reuseable mesh bags for fruits and vegetables with the purchase of produce.  

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