There is so much focus on businesses and individual consumers making a change … that we don't stop to consider the institutions that are supposed to be on the frontline of sustainability. Yes, I mean universities – those places where the leaders of tomorrow are created. Universities have a huge ability to make changes, within their walls and out in the broader public. Here, we highlight two universities – one that came to BioPak's attention back in 2013, as the first university to adopt a total waste streaming system, and one that's come to our attention in the last six months for their coffee cup initiative.
USC was the first in Australia to implement a total waste streaming system. The USC's On-Site Composting Apparatus (OSCA) transforms organic waste into nutrient-rich compost for the campus gardens, processing up to 50 tonnes a year. 50 tonnes of compost means 60 tonnes less CO2 entering the atmosphere, and USC sends 26% less waste to landfill than they did in 2013. OSCA has a very low energy consumption and can process one wheelie bin of compostable waste in two weeks. To ensure the organic waste stream is consistent with OSCA's requirements, the campus food outlets use only compostable catering products (made of 100%).
Green Caffee is a UQ Sustainability Office initiative that allows communal cup sharing. In 2019, the UQ Sustainability Office rolled out their 'Green Caffeen' initiative – a communal pool of reusable coffee cups that are provided at a growing number of food outlets. Anyone with the Green Caffee app can rent one of these cups, then return it to any participating outlet. Suddenly, the 'I forgot my cup' excuse is null and void – in fact, perhaps the biggest barrier to using Green Caffeen is lack of awareness and staff support. While advertising is constant on the group's social media, there is an absence of physical advertising, and students are rarely seen with one of these cups. Staff at the participating outlets do not offer them – it is up to the customer. Nevertheless, UQ food outlets have started charging more for disposable cups – rather than a discount for bring a keep cup, there is a surcharge for forgetting it. Plastic straws and cutlery are being phased out. Things are changing. These are only two examples, but it is evident that every university has the means to effect change, and most are taking up the challenge.
Information taken from the USC and UQ Sustainability websites. Check out our blog for more information about why paper cups have not disappeared and what the difference is between home and commercial composting.
Planet Friendly Packaging acknowledges the traditional custodians of the land on which we work.