UBC Undergraduate Research

Scholar’s Zero-Waste Catering Chew, Rachel; Chin, Emily; Wong, Jessica


Food service systems generate high levels of waste in many areas, but especially in the area of single use items as our society depends more on convenience and efficiency in their dining services. Vancouver has acted on this by implementing a plan to reduce waste by 2020 (City of Vancouver, 2018). UBC has created their own initiatives with their Zero Waste Action Plan to increase waste diversion. As a participant in UBC’s initiatives, Scholar’s Catering is looking to decrease their single use item waste overall. Scholar’s current initiatives towards sustainability include sourcing sustainably, using electric trucks and using almost all compostable single use items. However, with regards to single use items, they wanted to know how they could improve their waste diversion. Scholar’s currently charges for some single use items to attempt to decrease waste. In this project, we looked to find out how this charge was being received by clients, as well as looking into other solutions for Scholar’s to decrease waste from single use items by identifying problem areas. Numerous literature reviews, an online survey for superusers, visual audits, and five in-person interviews amongst volunteered superusers were utilized to come up with potential solutions for Scholar’s to decrease their waste output. The project began more focused on the current charge, whether it was effective or not, but through time identified other problem areas. These areas included an excess accumulation of non-charged items for super users, an excess of saran wrap and unnecessary single use items besides the items being charged. Our research culminated in the creation of a three-tiered Action Plan for Scholar’s including immediate actions that required little change in Scholar’s current procedures, such as an order form and website revision and a review of all automatically included single use items. The second tier included short term actions that required small changes and investment in current systems that could grow into larger changes, such as utilizing reusable trays for coffee orders and creating refillable sugar services. The final tier included long term actions that require research and system overhauls, such as creating a deposit program for reusable items and finding effective alternatives to saran wrap. 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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