A petition launched by the UVic Sustainability Movement (UVSM) in hopes of persuading the university to move away from distributing paper coffee cups on campus has garnered over 1 500 signatures in just over a month and is picking up steam.
“At UVic, over 4 500 paper coffee cups are thrown out every day,” the UVSM writes on the introduction of their petition. “That is the equivalent of one and a half average-sized trees here on Vancouver Island.”
The UVSM was founded by two Environmental Studies students in 1999 as the UVic Sustainability Project. Their purpose, as stated on their website, is to ‘build a more cohesive university community that works together to address issues of concern and importance regarding the sustainability of our institution and community.’
“We are throwing away over 1 500 000 paper cups every year.”
On the petition’s description, the UVSM criticizes UVic for the amount of paper coffee cups that are thrown out each year on campus.
“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,” the petition reads.
In addition to the number of cups that are thrown out on campus, the UVSM also highlights a problem with the cups themselves: they contain a type of petroleum which makes them not fully compostable.
Even if the cups are thrown into a compost bin, they will break down into a papery mush that contains petroleum particles. And if the cups are thrown into the garbage, they are taken to Hartland Landfill where they struggle to decompose at all, due to the lack of oxygen.
Oxygen is a key factor in effective decomposition. In the Hartland Landfill, where garbage is compacted for 12 hours a day to create more space for waste, oxygen is hard to come by.
It’s for those reasons that the UVSM calls out UVic for saying that the cups are environmentally friendly, when they actually are not.
In the petition, the collective argues that UVic should look towards the OZZI reusable mug and container program, which has been successful on other North American university campuses such as McGill and Marquette University in Wisconsin.
The OZZI system allows students to access reusable mugs and to-go green containers with the swipe of their student card and charges students who don’t bring their containers back to be reused.
According to the UVSM, an OZZI machine would cost the university $15 000, with a $110 monthly maintenance fee and the initial cost of purchasing reusable containers as well. When compared to the yearly cost of paper cups, the UVSM estimates that moving towards an OZZI system would still be less expensive.
On campus, the group proposes vending machine locations in cafeterias and coffee shops across campus, where students can grab reusable mugs instead of paper ones. From there, students can use the mugs, and have up to 10 business days to return them with no charge.
The UVSM acknowledges the plan wouldn’t work for visitors on campus, since they don’t have student cards, and that cutting out all paper cups is unrealistic. But the group still thinks that the cutback alone would still be a great start for UVic to move away from non-eco-friendly cups.
“By switching to an alternative system like OZZI,” the petition says, “UVic could significantly reduce their waste output and be one step closer to becoming a zero-waste campus.”
To sign the petition or find out more about the UVSM initiative, visit facebook.com/uvicsustainability