New dining hall take-out option creates additional waste

Increased packaging includes take-out container, beverage cup, and cutlery/napkin set

Reusable containers aren’t permitted by Public Health.
Photo: 
Reusable containers aren’t permitted by Public Health.
Photo: 

As Queen’s adapts to the “new normal” in residence, sustainability has taken a back seat to health and safety.

Residence dining halls opened in September with a new feature: meals to-go. Students are encouraged to use this option to minimize the number of students in the dining halls and to increase physical distancing efforts.

“Sustainability is complex and requires everyone to do their part. Hospitality Services remains committed to minimizing waste as much as possible,” Jessica Bertrand, wellness and sustainability manager for Hospitality Services, wrote in a statement to The Journal.

READ MORE: A look inside: The Journal tours Victoria Hall & Leonard Dining Hall ahead of move-in

“While COVID-19 has required the use of more meals to-go, and a resulting increase in the use of packaging, we are working hard to keep sustainability top of mind.”

Limited dine-in capacity is still available in the dining halls, but chairs are spaced two metres apart to maintain physical distancing.

Students who choose the take-out option receive one compostable to-go container, plastic cutlery with a napkin in a plastic bag, a paper beverage cup with a plastic lid, and a paper straw. Items like fruit cups and desserts are also available, pre-packaged in
plastic containers.

Students collect their food from the dining hall as usual, and then use the designated tables to transfer their food from the plate into the to-go container.

The to-go container is compostable, the cutlery and beverage cup are garbage, and the plastic containers are recyclable.

“Wherever possible, we are using fibre containers that are compostable,” Bertrand wrote.

Hospitality Services developed the take-out option in collaboration with Kingston, Frontenac, and Lennox and Addington (KFL&A) and the University’s Senior Leadership team.

With help from the Sustainability Office, Hospitality Services also updated its recycling signage with images of the packaging available to make the sorting process easier.

READ MORE: Students in residence “generally” following pandemic safety guidelines

Hospitality Services implemented a one-compostable container system on Sept. 17 to reduce the amount of packaging being used and increase ease of transportation.

“With reusable containers currently not permitted as per Public Health recommendations, the amount of packaging has increased with the shift of meals to-go on campus,” Bertrand wrote.

“While we expected the increase, we noticed quickly that it was resulting in waste that wasn’t being sorted properly. We also saw that students were having difficulty carrying multiple items.”

In the past year, Hospitality Services and the Sustainability Office reviewed the packaging to make necessary changes, like using compostable alternatives for as much of it as possible.

“It is important to know that recycling and organics bins contaminated with garbage are
to be disposed of as waste,” Bertrand wrote. “It is important for students to take the time to
sort their waste and packaging into the proper receptacles to ensure they are composted
or recycled.”

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