CapU Works to launch new reusable container program

Pilot project could prevent 12,000 disposable containers from being thrown out each year


New reusable salad containers will come into circulation at the Capilano University cafeteria the week of Jan. 22. This new “Greentainer” pilot project was an initiative that Tourism Management student and CapU Works Student Organizer Tessa Janzen spent the last five months developing. She created a business case to show stakeholders the financial savings of a reusable container program as well as the environmental impact.

A previous reusable container system existed in the cafeteria, which Janzen admitted wasn’t marketed very well. Students had to ask for the reusable containers stacked behind the counter instead of the regular disposable containers, and paid a $2 deposit, which caused unnecessary backlog in the system when they returned their containers. The Greentainer pilot project will completely replace disposable salad containers at the cafeteria and students won’t be required to pay a deposit fee.

“We thought about doing a deposit system like the old way because it would encourage students to bring them back obviously, because that’s the main concern with this type of program, people need to return them for the recycling to keep going,” said Janzen. She does worry that with no deposit fee they will lose numerous reusable containers, but considers it a risk worth taking. She believes that even if the cafeteria loses 30 per cent of their containers it will still prevent waste. “We thought let’s just try 100 per cent adoption, no fee and really drive home the idea of returning the container on the day that you use it,” she added.

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Janzen estimated that the reusable containers would prevent about 12,000 disposable salad containers from clogging the waste stream every year. These new Greentainers are made from recycled plastic and will last about 300 uses before they begin to break down. Students will be able to return their containers to one of four stations located around campus in the Bosa, Fir, Birch and Library buildings.

Janzen believes this pilot project will be beneficial for the school. The zero waste stations found in every building on campus were placed to help students cut down on waste by encouraging them to sort their waste by containers, beverage containers, mixed paper, organics and garbage. “But they’re not going in the right bin per say,” said Janzen. The waste stream is contaminated when people don’t correctly sort their disposables.

Last year’s waste audit, an annual event that sees students sort through CapU’s garbage and recycling, showed that even several years after the zero waste stations were installed on campus there was still a high rate of contamination. Janzen said that while students appeared enthusiastic about sustainability and reusable containers during Sustainability Week in October 2017, in her opinion, students don’t always know how to correctly sort their disposable containers. “We heard from students that they’d be really interested,” she said. “It’s just a simple way to get engaged in waste reduction that everybody can get involved in.”

The cafeteria staff are currently being trained to work with the new system when it becomes fully operational. “To get all stakeholders to say yes we just had to make it as simple as humanly possible,” said Janzen, and that meant eliminating the deposit she initially thought would be part of the new system. Even still she and other students involved with CapU Works will be present in the cafeteria the week of the project’s launch to explain it to students.

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