University of Technology, Sydney, Australia


First plastic free food court

In August 2019, University of Technology, Sydney (UTS) opened the new 5 Star Green Star certified UTS Central Building containing an Australian first Plastic Free Food Court. All take-away food containers are compostable, and drinks are sold in recyclable glass, aluminium, and paperboard.

The move is a manifestation of the university’s commitment to on-campus sustainability and is part of UTS’s Plastic Free Plan designed to phase out single-use plastics on campus, developed in response to the environmental concerns of staff and students.

The Food Court has eight independent retail tenants, some well-known national and international brands and all leases contain sustainability clauses stipulating tenants must support and accept BYO containers, and that take-away packaging must be certified compostable such as paper, bamboo, cardboard, and PLA. The Food Court has a separate waste stream with a bin for food scraps and the compostable packaging, another for Return and Earn scheme recyclable drink containers, and third general bin for everything else. 

Staff, and especially students love the initiative as it is a demonstration of how the campus aligns with their values. Furthermore, since opening the Food Court has been visited by other large universities and building and portfolio owners. Information and details, including the sustainability lease clauses, have been freely shared with interested parties.

What the Judges Thought

What an exemplary project, with tangible impact that we can all learn from! We were impressed that this is tackling the issue of plastic in retail in a structured way. We particularly welcomed the commercial aspect, writing the requirements into the retail commercial contracts, thereby influencing the supply chain.

It is impressive that you have banned all plastic bottles, not just water, and it is great to see the behaviour change work with your ambassadors, explaining why going plastic-free is important, and encouraging users to BYO.  f there is anything to build on going forward, it is to continue pushing the use of re-usables.

Top 3 Learnings

  1. Strong retail lease sustainability clauses are essential – setting a level playing field for all tenants. 
  2. Stakeholder collaboration is critical, including: - management, sustainability, commercial unit, tenants, waste management, cleaners, and communications.
  3. Ongoing support, guidance and audits are required to ensure long term compliance.
12 - Responsible Consumption and Production 17 - Partnerships for the Goals
University of Technology, Sydney, Australia	 image #1 University of Technology, Sydney, Australia	 image #1 University of Technology, Sydney, Australia	 image #2