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By Maurice Cacho

Associate News Editor

The Hub is the first university cafeteria operated by Aramark Canada to use biodegradable food containers — but it’s costing Ryerson extra.

The idea stemmed from Ryerson Vice-President Administration and Student Affairs Linda Grayson’s visit to the Art Gallery of Ontario in the spring of last year. “In the exhibit, I looked at a number of (biodegradable) products that were either in the development stage or were in the process of being developed,” said Grayson.

With the help of Aramark, the project was brought to life. The Hub’s new compostable products are made from natural sugarcane fibre and corn, and can become organic fertilizer. Containers are also microwave, oven and freezer safe. Ancillary services will absorb the extra expenses until the summer, which Aramark’s Resident District Manager Robert Zmak said are between 15 and 25 per cent more than normal containers. “They’re significantly more expensive,” Zmak said.

John Corallo, vice-president ancillary services, said there’s no guarantee the extra costs will always be covered by the university. “We’re picking (the costs) up for sure this year, but we’ll be discussing it next year,” he said. But first-year nutrition student Jennifer Camenzuli doesn’t mind spending more on food. Aramark is a multi-national food- services provider with a presence at many other universities in Canada. The company has an exclusive contract to provide food services at Ryerson.

Food Services Director Peter Schneider is optimistic prices will come down in the long-run as university cafeterias adopt the program. “The more this spreads out with Aramark, the more buying power we’ll have,” Schneider said. This means that as a large customer, the company can negotiate lower prices. Although the environmentally friendly containers are only available at the Hub, Schneider said other on-campus cafeterias will be following the new packaging trend in six weeks.

There are no plans to go back to using dishes at the Pitman Hall cafeteria, Zmak said. “Unfortunately, the issue with the dishes over at Pitman Hall is that we never seem to get them back,” Zmak said. “It was very costly.” Previous initiatives to get students to return cutlery and dishes had been a “real challenge,” he added. But not all food packaging available at the Hub is biodegradable. Zmak’s team is still searching for companies to provide some containers, despite the costs and complications.

Schneider is proud of the items his cafeterias offer. One of these new cups, he said, takes roughly 40 days to safely disintegrate. The quality, consistency and costs of environmentally-friendly products delayed their introduction, Zmak said. Keith Cherneski, a third-year Urban Planning student, is pleased with the initiative.

“We’re a pretty big school and a lot of people eat here, so it’s a lot of garbage to save,” he said.

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