University Centre Food Court Receives New food choices and Revamped Recycling Program

By Joseph Mathieu

Photos by Mike Pinder

Campus-wide surveys and a food waste audit have led to some changes at Carleton’s University Centre’s food court this fall.

Students, staff and faculty will notice a facelift in food choices and a revamped recycling program that aims to make the food court much more enjoyable and effective.

Perhaps the biggest change is the new recycling and composting centre in the seating area that was developed and built over six months. The station is unique in North America and designed specifically for Carleton.

“Low diversion rates and cross-contamination are particular issues of food courts across the higher education sector, and we were quite certain it was the same here,” said Sandra Nelson from University Services.

Last March, an audit completed by MASS Environmental concluded that only 12 per cent of the food court’s waste was recycled or composted. Of the waste going to landfill, 22 per cent could have been recycled and 71 per cent could have been composted.

The new station emphasizes recycling as simply as possible. Because even a little water in a bottle can contaminate a bag of recycling from being properly processed, the first step is to pour out liquids into a sink. Then, the compost portion takes all food wastes, used packaging and napkins under the green banner, followed by the plastic, metal and paper recycling slots. Items like straws, condiment packaging, Subway bags and coffee cups are relegated to the last slot, to the landfill.

The hope is the station will be successful enough to expand the concept across campus.

University Services also teamed up with Deloitte in March to interview students and staff about their recycling attitudes and habits. They determined the food court’s system wasn’t as straightforward as the City of Ottawa’s green, black and blue box program.

‘There was a moment when we all looked at each other, and you could tell we were all thinking the same thing – why have we complicated something so simple?” said Assistant Vice-President of University Services Ed Kane. “This new station emphasizes the process you follow at home without even thinking about it.”

A market research survey also interviewed 1,686 students, staff and faculty to determine what Carleton’s been craving. At the top of the list was more choice in traditional and ethnic foods, as well as specific options like Booster Juice, which has opend on the fourth-level of the building.

New food court digs include La Cocina ,serving Mexican burritos, tacos, and chips and salsa. The Local Ottawa will rotate its menu each term, starting with Ottawa’s Korean BBQ Bap from Raon Kitchen. The gluten-free dedicated Kitchen Exchange, with vegan and vegetarian options, will also feature a rotating menu, and its inaugural flavours will be Indian food from The Republic of Spice.

The Market offers up the works of Executive Chef Daniel Poulin, whose scratch, grab-and-go meals range from pastas to calzones. Colonel By Chicken, which used to be called The Bonfire, will continue to offer pulled or fried chicken sandwiches, classic potato wedges, and coleslaw. Burger 101 and Greens are rebranded from tried and true counters that serve hot sandwiches and salads.