Zero Waste Food Ware Strategy

UBC's unique Zero Waste Food Ware Strategy is a step toward meeting UBC's Climate Action Plan 2030 targets, and creating a zero waste future for food and beverage on campus by reducing single use items including plastics.

By-Laws

It’s important to note that while our policies align with City of Vancouver by-laws that require certain single-use item fees and the ban of some materials, UBC’s Point Grey campus is outside the city’s jurisdiction and therefore is not governed by these by-laws. 

The Zero Waste Food Ware Strategy applies to all food and beverage businesses and outlets that sell or provide to the public including students, staff and faculty, and are based on the UBC Vancouver academic campus. This includes catering businesses based on campus. 

The strategy encourages the use of reusable food and beverage containers through fees on single-use items. The new guidelines were first introduced in January 2020. However, this was put on pause with the onset of the pandemic as food and beverage operations on the UBC Vancouver campus were disrupted.  

As operations return to pre-pandemic practices, UBC has resumed engagement with businesses to continue implementation of the strategy. A number of proposed changes are outlined below, in order to continue UBC’s commitment to climate action.

Single Use Item Guidelines and Upcoming Changes for 2023

As UBC continues to work towards its bold climate action goals, the Zero Waste Food Ware Strategy is broadening its scope. 

The following sections provide the specific requirements for single use items, including fees, acceptable types of products, and recommended actions and practices for businesses at the UBC Vancouver academic campus. To help business and the campus community to prepare, please review the proposed changes below. 

UBC’s goal and expectation is for all businesses including food outlets and on-campus catering to fully align with these guidelines as of January 2023, with exceptions noted. 

What do you think about these changes?

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Share your thoughts on the proposed changes and the future of zero-waste food ware at UBC in a survey and be entered in a draw for a chance to win a $100 prize from the UBC Bookstore. 

Complete the Survey

Fees and Requirements 

Current Policy Proposed Changes for 2023
  • Required minimum fee of $0.25 per cup, charged separately from the product (e.g. $2.00 for coffee, additional $0.25 for a single use cup.)
  • No self-serve cups or lids. Customers should always be asked if they want to purchase a single use cup and lid.
  • Clearly communicate fee to customers via signage and staff training. 
  • Continue $0.25 hot beverage cup fee.
  • Businesses will be required to accept clean, reusable customer drink cups.

 

Acceptable Items

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hot lid
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paper cup
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wooden sticks
Recyclable plastic lid Paper cup with plastic lining Plain wood sticks
  • Select white or natural paper cups with minimal dyes and inks to maximize recyclability. 
  • At UBC, cups and drink containers go in the Recyclable Containers bins for recycling. Any compostable cups placed in those bins will contaminate the recycling and not be composted. 
  • Avoid synthetic, non-compostable tea bags and tea bags wrapped in plastic.

Not Accepted

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foam cups
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plastic sticks
Foam cups Plastic stir sticks

Exemptions 

  • Single use items including cups provided at private or ticketed events (i.e. sports events and concerts), or that are provided with free drinks or meals, are exempt from the requirement to charge fees. 

Recommended actions to reduce single use items 

  • Increase fee beyond minimum, and/or combine the fee with a reusable cup discount (e.g., $0.25 fee plus additional discount for bring your own mug). 
  • Encourage more in-house consumption using reusable (e.g., ceramic) cups. 
  • Offer reusable cups for sale. 
  • Participate in a cup sharing program or implement an in-house cup return program
  • Offer express line, priority or loyalty cards for customers with reusable mugs. 

Fees and Requirements

Current Policy Proposed Changes for 2023
  • The $0.25 cup fee is optional for cold cups in 2022. However, if the fee is implemented, please ensure the following:
    1. Fee must be charged separately from the product. For example, $2.00 for the drink, additional $0.25 for a single use cup.
    2. No self-serve cups or lids. Customers should always be asked if they want to purchase a single use cup and lid.
    3. Clearly communicate fee to customers via signage and staff training. 
  • Required minimum fee of $0.25 per cup for both hot and cold drinks. 
  • Businesses will be required to accept clean, reusable customer drink cups. 


Acceptable Items

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plastic cup
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plastic lid
Recyclable plastic cup (#1, #2 and #5) Recyclable plastic lid (#1, #2 and #5)
  • Preferred plastic type for recyclability is #1 (PET or PETE), followed by #5 (PP) and #2 (HDPE). Types #3 (PVC), #6 (PS) and #7 (OTHER) should be avoided. 
  • At UBC, cups and drink containers go in the Recyclable Containers bins, so compostable cups will be sent to the recycling facility, rather than composted. 

Not Accepted

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foam cups
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plastic cups
Foam cups (#6) Non-recycleable plastic cups (#7)

Exemptions 

  • Single use items including cups provided at private or ticketed events (i.e. sports events and concerts), or that are provided with free drinks or meals, are exempt from the requirement to charge fees. 

Recommended actions to reduce single use items 

  • Increase fee beyond minimum, and/or combine the fee with a reusable cup discount (e.g., $0.25 fee plus additional discount for bring your own cup). 
  • Encourage more in-house consumption using reusable cups. 
  • Offer reusable cups for sale. 
  • Participate in a cup sharing program or implement an in-house cup return program
  • Offer express line, priority or loyalty cards for customers with reusable cups. 

Fees and Requirements

Current Policy Proposed Changes for 2023
  • No fees
  • No plastic straws, except for accessibility purposes​
  • Straws are to been given out by request only 
  • None
Acceptable Items Not Accepted
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paper straw
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Plastic staws
Paper or cardboard straws  Plastic straws
  • Plastic straws are not readily recyclable, can contaminate food scraps composting, and escape into the environment causing ocean pollution.
  • Proven alternatives are available and have been in use on UBC campus since summer 2018. 

Exemptions 

  • Bendable straws (plastic if necessary) to be provided to customers who need them as an adaptive aid for accessibility. 

Recommended actions to reduce single use items 

  • Do not offer straws of any kind unless for accessibility reasons. 
  • Reusable options such as silicone, glass, or metal may also be sold. 

Fees and Requirements

Current Policy Proposed Changes for 2023
  • By-request only​ 
  • Fibre compostable only, no plastic
  • Only provide single use cutlery and chopsticks upon request, no self serve 
  • None
Acceptable Items Not Accepted
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Wood cutlery
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Plastic cutlery
Compostable wood or plant fibre-based Plastic (including recyclable, compostable, biodegradable, and PLA)
  • Plastic cutlery is one of the most common contaminants in food scraps composting, causing food scraps to be sent to the landfill and creating plastic contamination in compost that is used for landscaping and gardening. 
  • Avoid plastic wrapped cutlery and chopsticks. 
  • Compostable wood and bamboo cutlery have been in wide use at UBC since summer 2018. 
  • Compostable and biodegradable plastic cutlery are not able to be composted by UBC and many regional facilities, and are not recyclable. 

Exemptions

  • None at this time

Recommended actions to reduce single use items 

  • Offer reusable cutlery for in-house use where possible 
  • Offer reusable cutlery for sale 

Fees and Requirements

Current Policy Proposed Changes for 2023

Fees are optional. If fees are implemented, please ensure the following: 

  • Fee must be charged separately from the product. For example, $6.00 for the food, additional $0.50 for a single use container. 
  • Clearly communicate fee to customers via signage and staff training. 
  • Compostable fibre only, unless there are no alternatives​ 
  • Required minimum fee of $0.50 for single use food containers such as clamshells and bowls. 
  • Businesses will be required to provide at least one of the following reusable alternatives: 
    • accept clean customer reusable food containers 
    • offer in-house reusable food ware (e.g. ceramic plates, bowls etc.) 
    • offer reusable food container share programs, either in-house or through an external service provider. 

 

Acceptable Items

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paper container

 

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paper plate
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compostable paper bowl
Plain paper/fibre   Certified compostable paper/fibre with coating

Not Accepted

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foam container
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white round lined paper container
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Wax container
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plastic bowl
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mixed container
Foam Plastic-coated containers (unless certified compostable) Plastic containers Containers with plastic windows
  • Compostable containers, plates and bowls made of plant fibre (e.g., paper and cardboard), uncoated or with compostable plastic coatings for water and grease resistance, are acceptable and readily available. If coated, they must be certified compostable. 
  • Choose natural or white, avoid coloured paper and fibre due to the dyes and ink. 
  • For pre-packaged food items or bowl lids made of plastic: 
    • Preferred plastic types for recyclability are #1, #5 and #2; types #6, #7 and black plastic should be avoided. 
    • Do not use compostable or biodegradable solid plastic 
  • For pizza boxes, avoid any plastic inserts and ensure liners are certified compostable. 
  • UBC food vendors are to follow applicable health and safety guidelines in accepting reusable cups and containers. Find more information on BC policies  here

Exemptions

  • Food container fees are applicable to single use food containers for main entrees or meals such as clamshells and bowls, not including small containers for condiments etc., and not including pizza boxes. 

  • Prepackaged food items are exempt from the container fee. 

  • Single use items including food containers provided at private or ticketed events (i.e. sports events and concerts), or that are provided with free drinks or meals, are exempt from the fees. 

Recommended Actions to Reduce Single Use Items

  • Early adoption of reusable food ware alternatives such as refilling customer containers, in-house reusable food ware and reusable food container share programs. 

  • Reusable trays/plates, or paper plates for serving pizza instead of boxes.

Fees and Requirements

There are currently no fees and proposed changes at this time. 

Item Guidelines

Acceptable Items Not Accepted
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paper wrap
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Plastic wrap
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foil

 

Plain, uncoated paper or certified compostable paper.  Paper with plastic coating, plastic wrappers and foil.
  • If paper is coated for grease or liquid resistance, it must be certified compostable. 
  • Natural colour is preferred, so that it looks different than most conventional plastic coated paper. 
  • Use plain paper sleeves or small paper bags instead of plastic wrap if feasible. 
  • Avoid products containing PFAS (more information here). Note that certified compostable products are generally PFAS-free. 

Exemptions

  • Plastic or foil may be used in cases where there is no compostable alternative that is available.

Recommended actions to reduce single use items 

  • Serve food on a reusable plate rather than wrapping, if possible. 

Fees and Requirements

Current Policy Proposed Changes for 2023
  • Required minimum fee of $0.15 per single use carry bag 
  • Clearly communicate fee to customers via signage and staff training. 
  • No plastic bags​ 
  • Required minimum fee of $0.25 per single use carry bag 
  • By request only: customers should always be asked if they want to purchase a single use carry bag. 
  • Required minimum fee of $2.00 for reusable carry bags
  • Paper bags must be comprised of 40% recycled content

 

Item Guidelines

Acceptable Items Not Accepted
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Paper bags
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Plastic bags

 

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bag with plastic

 

Paper bags Plastic bags (including compostable or biodegradable) and paper bags with plastic windows. 
  • Plastic bags escape into the environment easily and are a major source of ocean pollution, and are a major contaminant in food scraps composting. 

Exemptions 

  • Small bags for individual items such as pastries or cookies do not require a fee. 

Recommended actions to reduce single use items 

  • Offer branded, reusable bags for sale. 
  • Offer a reusable bag exchange program. 

As of January 2023, these single use items are to be offered by request only, and not provided automatically or via self-serve stations. 

  • Cups, sleeves, lids and trays 
  • Stir sticks 
  • Cutlery 
  • Condiment packets
    • Consider pump dispensers as an alternative.

As of January 2023, vendors will be required to accept clean, reusable customer drink cups. Offering additional reusable options, such as in-house reusables and cup share programs, is strongly encouraged.

For takeout food containers, vendors will be required to provide at least one of the following reusable alternatives:

  • accept clean customer reusable food containers
  • offer in-house reusable food ware (e.g. china plates, bowls etc.)
  • offer reusable food container share programs, either in-house or through an external service provider.

UBC food vendors are to follow applicable health and safety guidelines in accepting reusable cups and containers. Find more information on BC policies here.

Additional resources to support Canadian businesses and individuals in transitioning towards reusables can also be found here.

More Information

UBC is committed to helping vendors and businesses on campus transition towards zero-waste food and drink ware practices. The following sections provide additional information and resources that may be helpful in implementing the Zero Waste Food Ware Strategy. 

UBC encourages all outlets to develop or participate in cup and container share programs and/or in-house/for-here service to provide reusable alternatives to single use items. 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

To access these resources, please reach out to zerowaste.coordinator@ubc.ca

For any fee charged for single use items as per this guideline, the business must clearly communicate these fees to the customer. 

  • Front line staff asking customers if they would like to purchase the single use item, such as a coffee cup, rather than providing it automatically. 
  • Post the fees clearly at point of sale and on menus. 
  • Show fees on receipts. 

Communication of fees to customers is essential as part of shifting consumer behaviour toward reusables. UBC provides free electronic and printed collateral to businesses to support this. Please contact zerowaste.coordinator@ubc.ca to arrange for these materials. 

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.

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

Review the single-use item guidelines and video listed above, and determine what changes need to be made in your business. 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 typically reduce costs. 

Does UBC collect the single use item fees? 

For non-UBC businesses, fees required in the strategy will be collected by the business, not by UBC. The business determines how to use the fees. Businesses are encouraged to use fees to develop and promote reusable food ware options, and transition to more sustainable single use products that align with UBC guidelines.

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

The strategy and standards apply to catering 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. 

What is considered a compostable item?

Compostable means something that can be fully composted in UBC systems or regional composting facilities. Items that are accepted for composting at UBC: 

  • Plain, uncoated paper products such as paper bags, paper towels, napkins and paper plates. 
  • Plain wood or bamboo chopsticks and cutlery. 
  • Plant fibre-based (e.g., paper, wood or bamboo) products that have a coating for moisture and grease resistance, and are certified compostable. 

Certified compostable means certified to BPI or CCME/BNQ (see logos below) or other recognized compostable standards including ASTM D6400 or ASTM D6868. Some products use the term “biodegradable”. This does not necessarily mean compostable – check to see that a product is certified under a recognized standard as shown below. 

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us composting council logo
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composting canada logo

At UBC, fibre-based items such as paper food bowls that have a moisture protective layer and are certified compostable are accepted. Look for the compostability certifications above. If you see a recycling logo instead, the product is probably not compostable.

Why are some plastics items are labeled as biodegradable and compostable?

Despite many manufacturers' marketing, solid plastic items such as cups, cutlery and containers made of plastic that is certified compostable (such as PLA), or labelled as “biodegradable” or “plant based”, do not fully compost in most regional composting systems. Also, these items are not easily distinguishable from regular recyclable plastic by either consumers and compost facility operators, and are considered contaminants. In most BC jurisdictions including Vancouver and UBC, these plastics are not considered acceptable in food scraps/composting green bins. 

Please see below for a video overview on which types of single use items and materials should be used at UBC.  

Click here to view a UBC student petition to ban single use items on campus.

Emerging Government Policies on Single Use Items

Multiple levels of government are advancing new policies for single use items and plastics. For more information, see the links below. The requirements in these emerging policies are also reflected in UBC’s planned policy updates.

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. The Strategy took effect in January 2020, but implementation was disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. As operations return to pre-pandemic practices, UBC has resumed engagement with businesses to continue implementation of the strategy, and will launch an update to be effective January 2023. In September 2022, a survey was launched to collect input on the planned changes.

Contacts

Strategy development and policy:

Bud Fraser, Senior Planning and Sustainability Engineer
Tel: (604) 822-1501
Email: bud.fraser@ubc.ca

Support for businesses regarding single use items and recycling:

Zero Waste Coordinator 
Email: zerowaste.coordinator@ubc.ca