UBC Undergraduate Research

An investigation into UBC plastic cutlery and alternatives Rathod, Vishal; Hwang, Young Ha; Hussain, Nahid Thohid; Uifalusi, Brian


UBC has committed its entire campus as an experiment in sustainability. This includes the community, land, assets, and utilities towards sustainability research, teaching, and learning. This commitment has been made in hopes of creating new opportunities to inspire dialogue and discoveries in sustainability. Sustainability is important in order to meet society’s needs without compromising the needs of future generations. The path of unsustainability can potentially lead to devastatingly negative consequences. One point that UBC is looking into being more sustainable is cutlery. All AMS Food Services use the same plastic cutlery at the moment. It is important that the current cutlery and alternatives be assessed in order to determine the most sustainable choice to maintain UBC’s commitment to sustainability. A plastic assessment is performed based on the Triple Bottom Line for cutlery. UBC’s current plastic cutlery is assessed for its sustainability performance in regards of the material it is composed of, recycling rates, cost, and social aspects. The same assessment is performed on other cutlery alternatives that include biodegradable cutlery, wooden cutlery, and cutlery brought from home. All of the assessments are then compared to each other to determine the most sustainable option. A social experiment to study the behavior of people recycling cutlery around campus is also performed. The result of the assessment is to keep the current BSI recyclable plastic cutlery as it is 100% recyclable and low in cost. The other alternatives have advantages and disadvantages compared to the BSI cutlery but none are significantly greater at the price range to replace it. UBC faces issues with their current system in regards to recycling the current cutlery. Not enough people dispose of their recyclables correctly due to insignificant signage as discovered through the social experiment. Solutions to this issue are more detailed signage or individual plastic recycling bins for different types of plastics. 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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