No more Styrofoam
With thousands of people visiting Wyckham House each week it was clear to the SAMRU that they needed to start addressing some environmental issues to limit waste. First item on the agenda: Styrofoam.
On Sept. 1 a full ban on Styrofoam was implemented and vendors were told they had to start serving their food in more environmentally friendly ways.
“We are showing the rest of the university and our community that we want to model the change right here,” explained Eily Sweeney, the SA’s VP Student Life.
The reason for the switch is because Styrofoam “leaches chemicals, it is non-biodegradable and it is a petroleum based-product,” explained Sweeney.
Communication with owners of Wyckham establishments started back in April when the ban was passed through student council, Sweeney said.
In response to the ban, most vendors have turned to paper plates and containers. One vendor doesn’t agree with this because of the amount of trees it takes to produce these products.
“We should think more about the big picture,” explained Mun Haelee, owner of Wycked Deli and Zen. “If you recycle (Styrofoam) it’s okay. For these paper ones you have to cut down all these trees just to make a stack.”
While Haelee raises a good point — that Styrofoam is recyclable — it is extremely expensive and time consuming, according to Sweeney.
“It’s comparatively beneficial to have paper rather than Styrofoam because it leeches chemicals into the food and because after that paper is used it is compostable,” says Sweeney. “Styrofoam never biodegrades.”
The Styrofoam ban was just the first step for the SAMRU to become more sustainable in Wyckham House. In the next few months they we will be doing a sustainability audit, looking into composts and eventually putting in place a reusable plate program.
Calgary Folk Festival is no stranger to a plate program. In 2001, the festival decided to put in place this eco-friendly program. The festival sees on average 5,600 patrons and close to 2,000 artists and volunteers.
“Our organization is really concerned with environmental sustainability,” explained Talia Potter, volunteer manager of Calgary Folk Festival. “Ultimately it comes down to trying to make an ecological choice. However, that choice is not as easy as you may think.”
Calgary wasn’t the first western music festival to develop a plate program. Both Edmonton’s and Vancouver’s folk festivals have used reusable plates in years prior. Potter explained that it is easier to make a plan based on a model that others have used.
“You have to consider things for us. We are paying for gas and shipping these plates back and forth in a vehicle,” said Potter. “They also come from China. They are manufactured in China so there are manufacturing emissions and then they come on a boat. There are all these other impacts and you have to weigh those and trust that reuseable is the best way to go in the end.”
In order for Mount Royal to start a successful plate program there will have to be some changes to the structure of Wyckham House.
“We will need renovations to our current facility to accommodate for a dishwasher of the size that would be needed for Wyckham House customers,” said Sweeney.
Like all new initiatives, there will be a transition period and Potter speaks from experience, saying that a good education system will make this program a success.
“You really need a good education program. You need to have students spending time at recycle stations before your program gets off the ground so that you let people know why it is important and why you are making the transition,” says Potter.
The Styrofoam ban was the first step for a more green campus and over the next couple years there will be more changes because, as Sweeney explains, students do care.
“Students care about sustainability and students care about the environment and since we represent the students we are meeting their concerns.”