Ireland’s first single-use plastic free café, the Bio Green Café on the UCC campus, has achieved European recognition in its first year of operation as it reduced waste by 95% and saved 112,000 pieces of disposable items.
Opened in September 2018 by the UCC Green Campus Committee in collaboration with KSG, the university’s contracted food service provider, the Bio Green Café has won an entry into the EU’s European Business Awards for the Environment, which will take place in Vienna in Autumn 2020. The latest accolade follows from the 2019 Repak Pakman Award for Innovation In Waste Resource Products or Service, awarded to UCC and KSG for the Bio Green Café last October.
The Bio Green Café was also a significant contributing factor to UCC being ranked the number one university in the world for Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) under University Sustainable Consumption and Production in the Times Higher Education Impact Ranking 2019. UCC also rated fourth globally from 360 universities in the STARS program rating on sustainable food and beverage in a University. The Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS) is a global sustainability standard created for higher education entities.
In the first 12 months of operation, the Bio Green Café saw over 112,000 pieces of disposable items avoided and waste kilos reduced by 95%. This small café (125 sq. metres), is now a favourite with the college community, with annual sales up 21% versus the original café.
The reduction in single plastic usage at the Bio Green Café includes:
- Disposable cups reduced by 33,183
- Plastic bottles reduced by 4,550
- Paper plates reduced by 24,342
- Plastic knives reduced by 7,547
- Plastic forks reduced by 2,114
- Sachets reduced by 35,000 including sauces, salt & pepper
- Individual plastic tubs reduced by 5,300 (marmalade, jam, etc)
The Bio Green Café was developed as a real-life experiment into how a catering service could be redesigned to eliminate single-use plastics. The scalability and replicability of the Bio Green Café project means that the potential environmental benefit for the university is significant.
Parts of the redesign have already been scaled up across the university and the removal of single-use plastic and disposables is actively underway across the UCC campus. In the Boole Library ‘s hospitality area, all disposables including paper cups, paper plates, plastic cutlery and sachets have been removed.
In the Campus’ Deli Bar Cafes ‘Elements & Pulse’, plastic salad containers have reduced by 13,314 in the year, and in UCC’s Westgate Buildings, the changing to glass and cans has resulted in the saving of 9,163 plastic bottles.
Across campus, plastic bottles are being eliminated from catering at conferences and meetings. KSG has installed an Infinity Water System, which facilitates glass bottle refills, reducing the number of plastic bottles by 10,000 per year. A returnable lunchbox system has also been launched at two Deli Bars on campus – the “recircle” lunchbox operates on a deposit return scheme, where a deposit is paid to receive the container and refunded when the container is returned.
Michael Gleeson, Chief Executive of KSG Catering commented, “We’re very impressed to see that in such a short time our actions have contributed in some measure towards environmental change. Customer reaction has been overwhelmingly positive with many engaged in reducing or eliminating plastic and disposables from their dining habits whenever possible. We are hugely encouraged by the partnership and reaction in UCC and we look forward to rolling these initiatives out in more of our outlets in the coming months and years.”
The opening of the Bio Green Café followed the 2017’s ban on disposable cups in UCC’s Boole Library building and KSG’s agreement to offer discounts to staff and students using reusable cups. This coincided with the UCC Student Union obtaining funding from the Southern Region Waste Management Office to give a free reusable cup to all incoming first year students.
The Bio Green Café is part of UCC’s overall Green Campus initiative and it reflects the University’s overall Strategic Plan (2017-2022), which details the university’s commitment to “enhance UCC’s sustainability reputation as Ireland’s first Green University, and UCC’s Sustainability Strategy (2016), which specifically aims to “manage and reduce waste generation by the University community through behavioural and practice change”.
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Notes to Editor:
KSG is a leading provider of catering and hospitality services to organisations in the private and public sector in Ireland. The company became a verified member of Bord Bia’s national sustainability programme, Origin Green, in 2018. KSG committed to a comprehensive sustainability plan for its Food and Catering Services activities covering four key areas, ranging across sourcing and procurement protocols, waste management, health nutrition and wellness and corporate social responsibility.
The company employs 1,350 people and operates in 120 locations around Ireland for a range of clients including Microsoft, Accenture, KPMG, Deloitte, MSD Pharma, Laya Healthcare, Pfizer, Allergan, Ericsson, Fidelity Investments, DAA, Mater Private Hospital, UCD, UCC, St Vincent’s Hospital Group and St James’s Hospital. KSG operates a City & Guilds accredited culinary training centre in North Dublin to support its activities.
KSG Dining Ltd, the parent group, is owned by DCC Group plc., the Hogan family and Michael Gleeson (Chief Executive). The company had a food and beverage turnover of €67 million in the year ended March 2019 achieving an operating profit of €1.7 million.