I attended a grad student orientation event at the University of British Columbia (UBC) this past week. About 700 or so twenty-somethings attended with me, and they fed all of us. You can only imagine the line-ups; one for beef burgers, the other for chicken or vegan burgers. Not sure why the vegans were lumped in with the chickens. The food was decent, but what I was really impressed with was the recycling station just outside the food area. It was crawling with attendants who cheerfully and skillfully directed you to place your paper plates and even cups into the green organics collection bins. I double checked on the cups as they looked plastic, but sure enough they are made by Green Century and are indeed compostable at the large scale facilities, including UBCs In-Vessel system on campus. Left over burgers and salad could go in too. There were plastics collection bins for the cutlery and regular old garbage cans for the foil wrap that the cookies came in. I opted to take the foil home as I would be making the monthly trip to the Beyond the Blue Box event.
So, all very impressive, that is until I started heading out to the afternoon seminars. Then I saw that many of those 700 (I’m guessing) were sitting on curbs and leaning on walls some distance from the food event. As I walked along the sidewalk, I saw one young man dump his plate, fork, leftovers and all into a garbage can. There were no recycling bins anywhere in sight. A garbage truck pulled up as if on cue, picked up the black can and dumped what looked like mostly paper plates into its compactor.
Great event UBC, but more recycling stations, spread throughout the site or at least roaming attendants, would increase participation.