UBC restarts requirement to charge for single-use food items

Following a two-year pause to support COVID-19 safety measures, UBC is resuming its Zero Waste Foodware Strategy, requiring food outlets to charge a fee for single-use cups and bags.

Starting January 2022, all food and beverage establishments on the UBC campus will be required to charge a $0.25 fee for single-use hot drink cups, to charge a $0.15 fee for single-use bags and to actively communicate these fees to customers. UBC is targeting a 50 per cent reduction in single-use cups by the end of 2022 and an 80 per cent reduction by 2030. These targets support a broader sustainability goal to reach 80 per cent waste diversion across the university.

UBC adopted the Zero Waste Foodware Strategy in June 2019 and implemented it in January 2020. In addition to fees for some single-use items, UBC eliminated styrofoam containers and a variety of plastic items, such as cups, straws and cutlery. A limited exception is available for community members who require a plastic, bendable straw for accessibility purposes.

In 2018, over 4,000 students signed a petition calling for the elimination of single-use plastics on campus. Consultation processes with UBC and independent businesses later that year also saw strong support for reducing single-use items.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, most food outlets stopped accepting reusable cups and containers, so the university paused further implementation in early 2020. According to UBC Campus and Community Planning, “many elements of operations [are] now returning to pre-pandemic practices," so UBC is restarting implementation with 2022 as the new “year one” for the strategy.

In 2023, customers will be charged fees for single-use food containers and cutlery. These items are currently available at no cost but are only provided upon request. A fee may also be charged for cold drink cups after further consultation.

For revenue generated from the single-use item fees, UBC Food Services said any profits will “go to supporting students and UBC’s academic mission.” The AMS said money collected will be directed toward sustainability projects at the Nest. As the fee is not collected by the university, non-UBC businesses can individually determine how to use the fee. Numerous food outlets contacted by The Ubyssey declined to comment or did not respond by publication.

Earlier in January, community members reported signage at food outlets in the Life Building announcing the new fees, citing a “City of Vancouver requirement”. Other food establishments on the University Endowment Lands (UEL) have also mistakenly referenced the Vancouver bylaw. Businesses on the UEL fall outside of both UBC and Vancouver jurisdiction.

In the case of UBC Food Services, UBC Media Relations told The Ubyssey that fees have been collected since January 2020 and the signage has since been corrected.