READERS PLEASE NOTE: This article was published
The new sustainability initiative is designed to reduce Ryerson’s carbon footprint
The convenience of a takeaway meal often comes at the price of the environment, with single-use plastic utensils, Styrofoam containers and plastic cups ending up in the trash after that quick bite between classes.
Now, Ryerson’s Hub Café is offering some food for thought with a reusable takeout container program, which aims to provide a sustainable dining experience.
Established by Ryerson Eats, the Ozzi to-go container initiative was designed to reduce Ryerson’s carbon footprint by encouraging students and staff to cut down on their use of disposable containers.
Ozzi, a U.S.-based sustainable food collection company, supplies containers and automated collection machines to Ryerson and other universities.
Since its founding in 2015, the Ozzi system has eliminated an estimated five million disposable to-go containers from landfills in North America, according to the company’s website.
The initiative helps combat the ongoing problem of students tossing their waste — primarily their cardboard containers — into the wrong bins at the Hub Café, said Ryerson Eats’ marketing team member Sara Aliko.
“Yes, we have the compostable containers, but they get mixed up with the recyclables and the litter. When they’re mixed up, it goes to landfill. So, we’re trying to eliminate all of that,” Aliko said, gesturing to the litter bins around the eatery, all filled with takeout containers.
Based on the available data, Toronto’s recycling is the dirtiest in the country, with contamination rates around 26 per cent, according to a CBC report. Contamination in this context refers to non-recyclable material or garbage that gets into the recycling system. Annually, processing contamination as recycling costs the government millions of dollars.
With the increasing popularity of delivery apps like Uber Eats, Foodora and Skip the Dishes, Restaurants Canada reports food delivery sales rose between 49 and 54 per cent across the country in 2018. This means an abundance of single-use plastics and containers were likely sent straight to the landfill, due to Torontonians’ history of improper waste disposal.
“It’s getting to be a really, really big problem,” said Ewa Adam, learning experience designer at Ryerson HR. That’s why Adam, a conscientious consumer, said she believes this initiative is a step in the right direction.
Test run of @RUEats green boxes went amaziing! …altho I felt a bit odd returning the box without having to wash it 🙃 only 12 purchases with the discount you get full return on this investment 👍ty for making my day a bit more #sustainable & #ecofriendly 🤓 yum! pic.twitter.com/Y635K5Ity3— Ewa Adam (@ewaadam) November 8, 2019
“This is such a great idea,” Adam said. “There’s so many more initiatives that are happening in terms of sustainability and being a little bit more aware of what’s happening with the use of plastics.”
While she said she believes Ryerson is “getting there” with its initiatives, it’s up to the consumer to make individual choices.
“These days, I think everyone just has to take part of it and not wait for initiatives at Ryerson or anywhere else — if you can do anything to be a little bit more sustainable, just do it,” she said.
On Nov. 12, Ryerson Eats tweeted it had sold 100 reusable containers since the program’s launch earlier this month.
“A lot of people like the idea. I’ve seen a lot of people use it,” Aliko said.
Adam said initiatives like this will really work when we become more conscientious day-to-day consumers.
“It’s a big mindset change for people, even for me,” she said, looking at her disposable Starbucks cup.
“It’s about being more aware. But I would love to see more initiatives and I’m pretty sure we’ll see more at Ryerson.”