University of Calgary

Green Scene

February 10, 2011

Styrofoam a thing of the campus past

Contributed by the Office of Sustainability

Roasters and Good Earth Coffee cups are compostable and can be placed in organics bins. Photo credit: Elizabeth BrennanRoasters and Good Earth Coffee cups are compostable and can be placed in organics bins. Photo credit: Elizabeth BrennanMacEwan Student Centre (MSC) is packed with vendors offering something for every appetite but campus members aren’t basing their purchases on cravings alone. A recent Students’ Union (SU) poll suggests that the food packaging matters too and that many would like to see disposable containers become a thing of the past.

In December the SU released a survey to measure attitudes of campus members towards food packaging. “The poll showed overwhelming support for a switch to compostable serving ware,” says James Delaney, the SU VP operations and finance.

From over 2,500 respondents, the response to the question, “Is switching from Styrofoam to compostable serving ware important to you?” the answer was overwhelmingly “yes,” with 77 percent of all respondents willing to pay $0.25 more for a meal if it was served in compostable packaging.

“This is good news for the initiative,” says Delaney, “because $0.25 is likely the upper end of what customers would actually end up paying.”

The idea to switch to compostable packaging was brought forth by former SU president Charlotte Kingston and the SU Sustainability Board (SUSB) about a year ago. In support of this change SU-owned MacEwan Conference and Events has removed Styrofoam and both the Black Lounge and the Den will no longer serve take out foods in Styrofoam once old stock has been depleted.

All Chartwells owned and operated vendors have also banned Styrofoam and switched to compostable or recyclable serving ware; Good Earth has also joined the movement.

SU tenants in the MSC food court however have common concerns regarding the additional costs of compostable ware, as well as the infrastructure to support the compostable waste. “We hope the survey results will help to alleviate some of the concerns,” says Delaney.

With the goal of becoming a net zero waste campus U of C will prepare for the anticipated switch by expanding organics collection on campus and exploring partnerships for the pickup of organics. On an average school day MSC produces nearly one metric tonne of waste which would exceed the U of C on site-in vessel composters (Earth Tub) capacity. Campus members can do their part by bringing meals from home, choosing reusable plastic or glass containers that can be washed and reused and if buying food on campus, loading up on flavor not packaging.

To see which vendors are rewarding buyers choosing to use reusable dinner ware and to read more stories about students, staff and faculty stepping up together to turn SustainabilityON please visit

For more stories on how students, staff and faculty are stepping up together to turn SustainabilityON at U of C or to learn how you can become involved, visit:

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