The University of Technology Sydney’s newest food court has opened for business without a single piece of plastic on the menu.
Patrons are encouraged to bring their own, reusable containers, or they are given meals and drinks in compostable packaging. Pre-bottled beverages come in aluminium or glass.
UTS was one of the first signatories of the City of Sydney’s Single-Use Plastic Pledge, and this landmark achievement takes the institution one step closer to the goal of being plastic free by 2020.
To make this happen, UTS’s sustainability team has been integrating sustainability clauses into the tenant leases of all new outlets and continues to work closely with vendors to make sure all packaging is fit for purpose and compostable.
Some of the packaging may still look, feel and work like single-use plastic but is actually made from PLA, a commercially compostable material derived from plant matter, such as corn starch or sugar cane.
These items, many supplied by Greenlister BioPak, can go with organic waste and other types of compostable packaging into clearly labeled bins throughout the university. They are then collected and commercially composted.
This is a big step for some of the vendors, especially the larger chains, such as bubble tea seller Chatime, said head of sustainability at UTS, Danielle McCartney.
“For many of the outlets, it’s the first time they have used compostable packaging and their UTS outlet may serve as the pilot for the rest of their franchises.”
Ms McCartney said UTS’s plastic free food court is a first, having eliminated plastic straws, plastic-lined coffee cups, plastic packaging, plastic bags and plastic bottled drinks.
“We haven’t found any precedents in the media for a plastic-free food court to the extent that we’ve just implemented,” she said. “We believe that this is an Australian first, likely even a world-first.”
The university is also investing in facilities, such as water fountains and washing-up facilities, to make it easier for people on campus to choose reusable containers.
“Small actions add up,” Ms McCartney said. “If every one of our staff and students used one less disposable coffee cup or plastic takeaway container each week, there would be two million less plastic items in landfill by the end of the year. That’s huge.”