New UTS Food Court
The new UTS Central Food Court in Building 2 has compostable food packaging. Setting a new benchmark for Australia, take-away food containers will be compostable and bottled drinks are mostly in glass and aluminium. The move is part of UTS’s Plastic Free by 2020 Plan designed to phase out the use of single-use plastics on campus. Well-known brands including PappaRich, MadMex and Chatime, along with others are switching to compostable food packaging for their UTS outlets and eliminating plastic straws, bags and coffee cups.
The food packaging
The compostable packaging will be a mix of paper, cardboard, bamboo, sugar cane, PLA and corn starch. Some items like PLA and corn starch look and feel similar to plastic but are actually made from plant-based material. These plant-based alternatives are fully compostable and in a commercial composter break down to form compost, unlike traditional plastic which is made of oil and is not compostable or biodegradable. See more on PLA here
The compostable food packaging and all food scraps go into a separate waste bin. This gets commercially composted in southern Sydney. The commercial composting process heats and aerates the material to over 55 degrees over a number of cycles, and the entire process takes around 20 weeks. (PLA and corn starch products don’t break down properly in a home compost.) Food waste collected from elsewhere on campus, the staff kitchens and cafes, will continue to be processed through our own on-site food dehydrators on campus.
Food Court bins
The new Food Court has three bins, including a new bin for food and compostable items.
- Food and compostable packaging - all food scraps AND the compostable packaging go in the maroon bin. It is important not to put any plastic products in this bin as they will contaminate the composting process.
- Bottles and drink cans – all drink bottles and cans go in the white bin. The contents of this bin get recycled and any funds generated from the deposit refund are invested back into sustainability projects on campus. Only drink containers eligible under the NSW Return and Earn scheme go in this bin. Check for the deposit symbol on the container.
- General waste – all other items such as soiled paper, chip packets and wrappers, plastic and any other items go in this bin. As with all general waste bins across campus, the contents get sorted off campus, with all recyclable items removed for recycling and the remainder going to landfill. It is important not to put food scraps or compostable food packaging in this bin.
Unless they’re needed, straws should be avoided. However, some customers with a disability, and some drink types do require a straw. In these situations straws made of cardboard, PLA or cornstarch are available. Some of these look and feel just like plastic (including bendy varieties). They are virtually indistinguishable from plastic straws – except they are 100% compostable! Paper, cornstarch, and PLA straws go in the compostable bin.
BYO still best
The explosion of ‘disposable’ single-use plastics, especially plastic packaging, has created a big environmental problem. Switching to compostable alternatives is part of the solution, but even these still require resources to manufacture, transport and process. The best solution is always reuse and refill. For this reason UTS encourages all staff and students to carry their own BYO cup, bottle, and lunch box for take away situations. Some keen beans even carry their own cutlery. Of course, some customers have special needs where this may not be practical. But if most of us, most of the time choose BYO, together our efforts add up to a huge benefit. Helping to create a cleaner, healthier planet for everyone.