UBC Undergraduate Research

An investigation into the Bring Your Own Container : food outlet concept Ollivier, Teague; Ngai, Andrew; Zhong, Min; Yang, Oscar


With the construction underway for the new SUB (Student Union Building), there are a variety of new opportunities to promote sustainability at UBC. One of these opportunities is the proposed sustainability program “Bring Your Own Container (BYOC) Food Outlet Concept”. With the implementation of a cafeteria in the new SUB, this program would phase in a mandatory reusable container policy for customers wishing to eat at the food outlets. This would mean that all students who wished to eat at these outlets would be required to provide a container for their purchase. The program’s purpose is to bring awareness to the student body of the importance of sustainability, and to recognize that by not using disposable containers we are reducing our waste. The purpose of this report is to evaluate the feasibility of the program considered for the new SUB. By using a triple bottom line assessment, plastic and glass reusable containers were considered and compared to the current disposable containers used in the old SUB. In order to provide a complete assessment, a UBC student survey was conducted in order to gauge student’s views on the program. In addition, a variety of secondary sources were used to investigate the economic and environmental aspects of the program. These included journal articles detailing the life cycle of glass, plastic and paper based recyclable containers and cost reports on the production of containers. With a total of 86 respondents to the UBC student survey conducted, 56% were either not in favor, or had no opinion on the BYOC Food Outlet Concept. It was found that students considered the program to be time consuming. This was based on the fact that there is a lot of effort needed to bring and wash a container whenever one wishes to eat at an outlet. With regards to the economic aspect, it was found that overall a reusable container made of glass or plastic is cheaper in the long run compared to disposable containers. However, the savings from using a reusable container are very small considering that they would need to be replaced and washed multiple times per year. After investigating the economic aspect, it was found that in the production of glass and plastic containers, there are a number of environmentally unfriendly byproducts. Comparing the carbon footprint to disposable, recyclable containers, it was found that the reusable ones had a much larger impact on the environment. 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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