UBC Undergraduate Research

An investigation into the impact of the switch to liquid sugar Plakaris, Kristian; Raturi, Dhruv; Mehta, Anuj


Over the past year, UBC Food Services has been making a switch from the use of raw sugar in paper sachets to liquid sugar. This has been done to reduce the environmental impact of sugar. It has been noticed that although the paper sachets used to store sugar are recyclable, they are not recycled by customers very often. This has a large impact on the environment, and the switch to liquid sugar was proposed to reduce this impact. To assess the impact of the switch to liquid sugar, our team conducted a triple bottom line analysis. This was done by doing primary as well as secondary research. Our primary research consisted of several in depth interviews with UBC Food Service staff, as well as customers at UBC Food Service locations. We discovered that while UBC Food Service staff was trained to recycle liquid sugar bottles, and waste from these bottles was very little compared to waste from paper sachets. We discovered that while there was some social inertia related to this switch, most customers were happy with the switch after being provided some training and education. In fact, by conducting a social experiment, we discovered that more than 60% of the customers at Neville’s cafe (a UBC Food Service location) preferred liquid sugar after just 2.5 months of training. We also noticed that environmentally conscious customers applauded UBC for the switch, and were in favor of UBC pursuing similar endeavors in the future. On doing some secondary research, we discovered that the cost of providing liquid sugar is greater than the cost of providing sugar in paper sachets. However, we noticed that the quantity of liquid sugar used was significantly lower (about 20%) per cup of beverage compared to the quantity of sachet sugar consumed per cup of beverage. This is due to the sweetness of the liquid sugar as well as its ability to dissolve quickly as compared to sachet sugar. While the switch to liquid sugar will increase costs for UBC and cause some initial discomfort amongst customers of UBC Food Service locations, we believe that not only is this switch feasible, but it is very beneficial to society in the long run. It will significantly reduce the ecological footprint of each UBC Food Service location and further UBC’s position as a leader in sustainability. 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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