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Taking away takeaway cups – a disposable cup free campus

reusable cups image
Get yourself a reusable cup ... no more disposable coffee cups will be available on the Dunedin campus from 1 January.

Otago will be the first University in New Zealand to go disposable cup-free when every café on the Dunedin campus stops stocking single use cups from 1 January.

And the switch is “incredibly significant for reaching our target of halving our waste to landfill by next year,” Sustainability Office Engagement Coordinator Jes Triscott says.

The move to disposable cup-free started in July when our three busiest cafés made the change, which has already prevented more than 25,000 cups from going to landfill.

Those switches have been so well supported, Café Albany joined the movement last month and Hunter Café this month, then all the other cafes will next month: Frankly Sandwiches, Hunter Café, Plaza Café, The Lab, the Union Food Court and the Union Grill.

The first cafés to make the change were St David, Te Mātiti and The Staff Club – which give everyone with a reusable cup a 50 cent discount. Some other cafes already do the same, and next year they all will.

Moving to reusable cups is a great example of the University “supporting each one of us to make smart sustainable choices”, Ms Triscott says.

Anyone who forgets to bring a reusable cup has the option of borrowing a ‘goblet’ from the cafés’ cup libraries then returning it to any café on campus.

University Union Operations Manager Martin Jones says while calls have had to go out for cups to be returned – amid rumours some people have built pyramids of cups in their offices – one person was so determined to return two cups, they arrived in the post from Hastings.

The note with cups explained the people had run out of time to return them and felt guilty about keeping them, he says.

Ms Triscott believes the move to disposable cup-free has been “a way to start that sustainability conversation”.

Mr Jones says subsequent chats with café staff, students and other staff have since prompted a host of sustainability-focused changes at the cafés, within food safety legislation and commercial realities:

  • Plastic takeaway cutlery is being replaced by a bamboo composite cutlery
  • Takeaway plastic containers are being replaced with cardboard containers as often as possible
  • Many salads are now on display in large bowls rather than individual plastic packaging
  • People who bring their own salad container can get a 50 cent discount on bulk salads
  • Sushi at Wasabi in the University Union can now also be eaten on a reusable plate on the premises, and can be bought by the piece.
  • Coffee grounds are available free from Café Albany for people’s gardens

And, for everyone’s Performance Development Reviews now “sustainability is right up there with the commercial realities of running a successful food outlet”, Mr Jones says.