Change the Cup!

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We recognize with respect the Lkwungen-speaking peoples on whose unceded, traditional territory the University of Victoria stands and the Songhees, Esquimalt, and WSÁNEĆ Peoples whose historical relationships with the land continue to this day. As a student-run organization, we acknowledge our privilege as people who have access to higher education.

At UVic, over 4,500 paper coffee cups are thrown out every day. That is the equivalent of one and a half average sized trees here on Vancouver Island. Why is this a problem?

1)    Two years ago, as a campus, we were throwing out 3,000 paper coffee cups a day. That is a 50% increase in two years! This growth is not sustainable.

2)    We are throwing away over 1,500,000 paper cups every year! That’s equivalent to 547.5 trees annually. If we were to cut that same number of trees down on campus, Mystic Vale would be wiped out.

3)    These coffee cups, although they are marketed as biodegradable, are not fully compostable. They contain a lining made of petroleum that simply isn’t compostable. When these cups are disposed of properly in the compost, they don’t break down into a nutritious soil amendment. Instead, they break down into a papery mush with petroleum bits.

4)    Worse yet, when these cups are thrown in the garbage they end up in the landfill where they take 150 years to break down - that’s right: 150 YEARS. UVic’s garbage is sent to Hartland Landfill where the garbage is compacted for twelve hours a day to conserve space and extend the life of the landfill. Unfortunately, this means that there is almost no oxygen, which is mandatory for decomposition. More often than not, the paper cups fossilize in the oxygen-deprived environment. Those cups that are able to break down do so anaerobically, releasing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, contributing to climate change.

5)    Although the UVic cups are touted as being environmentally friendly, when you look at what they are actually made of, they’re not great. They are composed of wood, recycled paper, petroleum, and chemicals. Yuck. It takes 1 gallon of water to make 1 paper cup – meaning UVic uses over 1,500,000 gallons of water a year for cup production. In addition, it takes 114 watt-hours of energy to make 1 cup. If you used the energy it takes to make one day’s worth of cups at UVic, you could power a washing machine for 1,026 hours! And last, but certainly not least, it takes 7.9 kg of crude oil to make every 1000 cups – which equates to 11,850 kg of crude oil a year.

So how do we address this problem? We are calling on UVic to invest in a reusable mug & container program as an alternative to our current system – similar to the system that has been successfully implemented at McGill University. We suggest the OZZI system - a green company that serves various universities and colleges across North America. They offer eco-friendly reusable travel mugs and to-go containers, as well as vending machines that both vend and collect the mugs. To get a mug, all you have to do is swipe your student card. If you return the mug in less than 10 business days, you aren’t charged. If you forget to return your mug, your card is only charged $10. These vending machines can be easily installed in all the coffee shops, stores, and cafeterias on campus. OZZI also offers digital facilitation that alerts Food Services when the machines are full and need to be emptied – very convenient! So, if you forget your mug, it’s no biggie! Imagine how many paper coffee cups we could save this way!

Now, how does the OZZI system compare financially to the cost of the paper coffee cups UVic already purchases? One box of 100 14-ounce paper coffee cups costs $81, which means UVic spends, on average, $3,645 a week and $174,960 a year on paper coffee cups. One OZZI vending machine, on the other hand, costs $15,000 or $500 monthly to rent. There is also a monthly fee of $110 monthly for on-line maintenance and a one-time cost of purchasing the reusable mugs and to-go containers. If UVic were to purchase ten machines, mugs and containers, and pay for a year’s worth of online maintenance, it would still cost less than UVic spends annually on paper cups. Every year thereafter, UVic would save the money they had been spending on cups. McGill University built new residence buildings with the money they saved by switching to OZZI.

Of course, we’re not suggesting that UVic gets rid of paper cups completely. We know there will always be visitors on campus who want to buy a coffee and don’t have a student card. But by switching to an alternative system like OZZI, UVic could significantly reduce their waste output and be one step closer to becoming a zero-waste campus!

If you want UVic to invest in this climate-safe, waste-reducing solution, please sign and share our petition and give us your ideas for a waste-free future on campus!

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