UBC Undergraduate Research

An investigation into reusable food containers Al-Khalili, Sadiq; Lau, Jane; Chan, Chris; Chen, James


With the future construction of the new Student Union Building (SUB), Alma Mater Society (AMS) intends to use this opportunity to contribute to the campus sustainability goal by researching and utilizing various green and sustainable ideas. One of these ideas involves the installation of Green Vending machines within the SUB that contain a variety of green reusable products. The exact brand and type of reusable products is still undecided so our goal is to research a variety of these and propose a worthy candidate. The purpose of this report is to report those findings on a sample of reusable containers and recommend the ideal reusable container to place into these Green Vending machines. Our sample of reusable containers consists of the Ziploc plastic container, the Snapware Glasslock glass container and the LunchBots steel container. These brands were picked by popularity and cost, and the materials were picked by popularity among other reusable products. Our report analyzes the life cycle of each of these products in terms of their economic, environmental and social impacts. Some assumptions were made on the exact facilities and methods used to extract, manufacture and recycle these products. A student survey was conducted to find out the preferred price for these reusable containers and emails were sent to communicate with our local recycling facility to understand how our products may be recycled. The price of purchasing and recycling the Ziploc containers is relatively cheap compared to the other products but they negatively impact the environment and society with their nonbiodegradable nature, and their toxic pollution generated from their production and recycling processes. The Snapware containers cost too much according to the survey and it costs nearly twice as much to recycle. Its influence on the environment and society are not much better because they are non-biodegradable and generate silica pollution. Although the LunchBots largely affects the environment in a negative way, they also contribute to the growing steel market and employ a great deal of people. To conclude, the Ziploc containers should be chosen for the Green Vending machines because they are cheaper in terms of purchase price and recycling cost. Disclaimer: “UBC SEEDS provides students with the opportunity to share the findings of their studies, as well as their opinions, conclusions and recommendations with the UBC community. The reader should bear in mind that this is a student project/report and is not an official document of UBC. Furthermore readers should bear in mind that these reports may not reflect the current status of activities at UBC. We urge you to contact the research persons mentioned in a report or the SEEDS Coordinator about the current status of the subject matter of a project/report.”

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