UBC Undergraduate Research

An investigation into the environmental impacts of container choices on the UBC Farm Ritland, Kelvin; Oliveira, Reid; Johnson, Quinn; Jiang, Jiahui; Foolad, Yasaman


The UBC farm uses plastic Rubbermaid totes and InterCrate crates for a variety of tasks such as harvest, storage, and shipping. However, they were concerned with the containers' economic, social, and environmental costs. This report presents the evaluation of the environmental costs of using reusable plastic containers which need to be continually washed in comparison to four other possible alternatives: cardboard boxes, wax-lined cardboard boxes, wooden boxes, and cardboard boxes with biodegradable liners. Due to food safety considerations and lack of structural practicality, cardboard boxes, wooden boxes and biodegradable liners were eliminated as options. Therefore, wax lined cardboard boxes were left as the most favorable alternative. Closer investigation of plastic containers versus waxed cardboard boxes was then done through comparative analysis of the environmental impacts on a scale based on solid waste, water emissions, air emissions, water usage, and CO2 emissions. This analysis showed that the plastic containers yielded far better environmental results in all factors except water usage by a factor of about 15. Overall, the recommendation presented is to continue with the current practice of plastic containers, favouring lighter local ones where possible. 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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