Catering for zero waste at the University of CambridgeWritten by Charlotte Gowers
Coffee cup recycling hit the headlines recently when Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s War on Waste exposed that 399 out of 400 disposable cups go to landfill or incineration. But the same challenge is true for all used foodservice packaging, which is rarely recycled due to the combination of card, plastic and food contamination.
The University of Cambridge has found an innovative solution to recycle waste from its Catering Service’s 7 catering operations, busy with 6,500 sales transactions a day and 1,500 departmental events a year. Last November, its Catering Services switched to compostable takeaway packaging made by Vegware. All compostable takeaway cups, containers and cutlery are plastic-free, and go in the food waste bin. 1.5 tonnes of used compostable packaging goes to a local composting facility every month, is combined with food and garden waste and creates soil improver in a matter of weeks.
Unusually for a packaging firm, Vegware offers expert recycling support – winning the 2016 Queen’s Award for this zero waste approach. At the University of Cambridge, Vegware’s environmental team helped identify the right collector and processing facility for used compostable packaging and food waste, created bespoke bin signage, and ran Green Days to teach students to choose the correct bins.
This compostable packaging is made of renewable plant materials with a lower environmental impact. Vegware calculates that The University of Cambridge’s monthly usage saves 1.5 tonnes of carbon, and contains 710 kilos of recycled content.
Case study film can be found here.