Zero Waste Foodware Strategy

Adopted in 2019 and launched in 2020, UBC's unique Zero Waste Foodware Strategy is a step toward a zero waste future for food and beverage on campus by reducing single use plastics.

A cup of coffee in a ceramic mug

COVID-19 UPDATE: To comply with COVID-19 health and safety standards, many businesses have made changes in food and beverage handling or packaging practices, such as increasing the use of single use (take-out) items. We recognize that health and safety remain top priorities for businesses, staff, and customers. Accordingly, UBC has paused the active implementation of the Zero Food Ware Strategy until conditions change. In the meantime, with COVID-19 precautions in mind, businesses can continue to choose better, more sustainable materials for single use items as per the procurement guidelines linked on this page.


Download the UBC Zero Waste Food Ware Strategy


The campus has demanded change regarding single-use foodware items. With sustainability an important part of our culture, starting in 2020 UBC is ready to lead the region in reducing single use plastics through its unique Zero Waste Food Ware Strategy.

The strategy, developed in consultation with on-campus single use food ware providers, was adopted in June 2019 and comes into effect end of January 2020.

Key Elements of the Strategy

The strategy is a step toward a zero waste future for food and beverage on campus, with three main elements:

  • Fees for single use items (initially, coffee cups), to encourage the transition to reusable food ware for enjoying food and drink.
  • Smarter, more sustainable materials for single use items, including discontinuing certain items such as foam cups, plastic straws and plastic bags.
  • Improved in-store recycling bins and signage for customers and staff. 

What Customers Need to Know

As a customer, you will see changes in how food and beverage is packaged and sold by January 2020. Bring your own cup to save money on coffee and hot beverages, or take advantage of UBC mugshare!


UBC recognizes that some community members need specific items such as plastic straws for accessibility purposes when enjoying food and beverages. As we transition to more sustainable materials and reduce single use items over time, we will incorporate our commitment to accessibility through identifying and addressing accessibility issues and concerns.

The Sustainability and Engineering unit in Campus and Community Planning, who is leading the Food Ware Strategy, is working with the UBC Centre for Accessibility to incorporate accessibility considerations into the Strategy implementation, which will come into full implementation January 2020.

What Businesses Need to Know

With the release of the strategy in July 2019, this means that businesses will be required to align with these standards by the end of January 2020, which provides for a six-month transition period. 

While the strategy provides the overall direction and targets for reducing and recycling single use items, the following two documents provide specific requirements for food and beverage businesses on campus:

  • The Food Service Ware Procurement Guideline provides the specific requirements for fees and single use items.


  • The Recycling Guidelines for UBC Businesses addresses requirements for recycling bins, signage and staff training.


Support Options for Businesses

As part of strategy implementation, UBC staff are available to help support businesses. This support includes:

  • Being available to meet with food business representatives
  • Answering questions on the strategy and guidelines, including on specific products
  • Offering a “zero waste assessment” to review current food ware products and recycling setups, and make recommendations
  • Provide UBC artwork such as signage and posters

UBC will also be implementing a public communications campaign to support the Zero Waste Food Ware Strategy in late 2019/early 2020. 

Strategy Development and Approval

In 2018 we began collaborating with Metro Vancouver and the City of Vancouver, and consulted with food business stakeholders on campus, on the development of our Zero Waste Food Ware Strategy to reduce and recycle single use food service ware and packaging, such as coffee cups and take-out food containers. 

Following consultations in June 2018, a follow-up survey was also distributed. Through this process we captured lots of input and ideas which helped us craft the strategy. We also distributed the draft strategy to campus food business stakeholders for comment. 

Download the 2018 Single-Use Items Consultation Report

In June 2019, the UBC Zero Waste Food Ware Strategy was approved as an addendum to the Zero Waste Action Plan, which is a Board Approved Plan under UBC’s Policy 92, Land Use, Permitting and Sustainability. 

As a food and beverage business owner, manager or buyer, where do I start?

Review the two standards listed above, and determine what changes need to be made in your business, for January 2020. Contact us (see information at bottom of page) if you would like help with this step.

As a business, how can I afford to pay for more expensive single use items?

If there are higher costs for specific items, these can potentially be covered by the single use item fees. In some cases businesses are already spending more for products that don’t align with UBC or regional systems, and switching can sometimes reduce the cost. For example, switching from compostable plastic drinking cups to recyclable drinking cups would reduce costs. 

Does UBC collect the single use item fees? 

No, the fees required in the strategy will be collected by the business, not by UBC. The business determines how to use the fees. This may include using the fees to offset extra costs associated with changing to different products, if applicable. 

What about off-campus catering – does the strategy apply?

The strategy and standards apply to catering with operations on the academic campus. Event organizers are encouraged to use on-campus catering, and if not, to request or encourage off-campus caterers to conform to the procurement guidelines. 


Strategy development and policy:

Bud Fraser, Senior Planning and Sustainability Engineer
Tel: (604) 822-1501

Support for businesses regarding single use items and recycling:

Zero Waste Coordinator