An initiative to eliminate Styrofoam from the MacEwan Student Centre food court and replace it with compostable containers is expected to be completed for September 2011.
The elimination of the material from Students' Union food vendors will help the University of Calgary reach long-term sustainability goals.
"By 2020, the University of Calgary wants to divert 80 per cent of waste on campus from the landfill," said SU vice-president operations and finance James Delaney. "So to reach the goal, the university is obviously going to have to deal with organics, because as far as weight, that's a huge chunk."
Delaney's sentiment on waste reduction was echoed by City of Calgary waste management education team leader Dave Marido.
"Styrofoam in the landfill just sits there," he said. "It doesn't degrade, it doesn't go away, it just sits there forever. If what's being collected in the cafeteria is going into that [composting] system, then super."
U of C EcoClub president Alexandra Pulwicki said Styrofoam is bad for people and the environment.
"There is a lot of Styrofoam being thrown into the garbage right now and it's sending a message that students and faculty don't care about the impact we have on our local and global environment," said Pulwicki.
The university has faced issues with composting infrastructure by installing an earth tub on campus. An earth tub is a large compost bin that aids in the break-down of compostable matter.
With an expected surge in compostable matter from MacHall after Styrofoam is eliminated, the question remains of where to put all of the compost.
"The Office of Sustainability is looking at external groups for a potential partnership where they would handle the extra load," said Delaney. "The university is itself increasing composting locations from 40 bins to 200 this summer so they expect the load to go from 30 metric tonnes to over 100, which means the earth tub won't cut it anyway so they're looking externally."
Delaney said he expects the issue to be dealt with this year.
Pulwicki is excited for cooperation between different university groups with the new infrastructure.
"I really admire that so many groups on campus such as SUSB, facilities management, the sustainability board, EcoClub and others were able to come together to make a plan for how this action is going to be executed," she said.
Students will be paying an estimated 20 cents extra per meal in order to cover the cost of the compostable containers.
"The cost should be brought down by the vendors or the university chipping in," said third-year business student Sean Jewett. "But I don't think the 20 cents is that much as long as it's going to a long term solution."