The University of Calgary’s Students’ Union has introduced biodegradable cutlery and “compost educators” to the MacEwan Student Centre this semester in an effort to reduce waste on campus.
The compost educators program, which is currently in the process of being approved by the SU Sustainability Board, will place staff hired by the SU near garbage cans in the MSC food court during the beginning of this semester. According to SU vice-president operations and finance Scott Weir, the staff will, “in a non-intrusive way, show what bin certain waste products go into.”
“We’ll have six people posted at the different bins during peek times at the beginning of each semester for about two weeks,” said Weir. “They will be there for around three hours each day, wearing green shirts that will say something about composting.”
The new cutlery introduced to the MSC this semester is made of cornhusks and is compostable. The cutlery purchased by the SU has several advantages over other biodegradable products, said Weir.
“What’s significant is that it’s made from a waste product. If you’re using corn itself, which you can use, you’re diverting food from the food system,” said Weir. “You never really want to do that because it raises the price of food. This is a waste product, so it is something that would have just been composted or thrown out anyhow.”
The new cutlery is slightly more expensive than the old plastic products and vendors will cover the extra cost.
Most MSC vendors already have the new cutlery. The program is expected to be fully implemented by early February.
Starbucks, Pizza 73 and Tim Hortons will not take part, as they are not managed by the SU.
These initiatives are part of a wide array of sustainability efforts taken by SU Sustainability Board over the past four years that have included banning polystyrene in the MSC and introducing compostable food packaging.
“First we got rid of Styrofoam. Now we are doing the second phase of the effort, which is being implemented this year,” said Weir. “The majority of our vendors now have compostable containers and things like that. That’s cool, because it helps reduce our waste on campus.”
Second-year law and society student Jay Stuart said these small changes can make sustainability better at the U of C.
“It’s good that the university is starting to make these kinds of decisions, like compostable cutlery,” said Stuart.