UdeM cuts down on waste



Credit: Amélie Philibert, Université de Montréal

In 5 seconds

UdeM is undertaking a series of initiatives to help reduce waste at the source. Here’s a look at the projects currently in place.

Waste Reduction Week ran from Oct. 20 to 29. It is held every year to educate people about ways to improve our approach to waste, such as source reduction (also known as waste prevention) and more responsible consumption. Université de Montréal is doing its part through new projects conducted by its Sustainable Development Unit to prevent and manage campus waste and, more broadly, to promote environmental responsibility.

The eco-squad in action

CANO, a startup founded by an UdeM graduate, began working with the university's food services department in 2019. It offers customers of the Local Local cafeteria an environmentally friendly solution to the problem of single-use plastic food containers. CANO’s product line initially focused on eliminating disposable coffee cups, then expanded to takeout food containers.

The move to reusable containers got an extra boost last March when the City of Montreal's ban on single-use plastics came into effect. However, this requires people to radically change their behaviour, so UdeM is also providing personalized support to help Local Local’s customers make the shift.

Since the start of October, a student “eco-squad” has been raising awareness about the CANO initiative at the cafeteria and food counters during the lunchtime rush. Their goal is to start a dialogue with the community to prevent waste by explaining how to use the cafeteria's reusable containers.

Recycling lab plastics

Following up on a pilot project and waste-characterization study conducted in 2021, early this year UdeM expanded its program to collect and recycle single-use lab plastics across the MIL Campus Science Complex. Hard plastics (vials, pipettes, etc.) are collected and sent them to a recycler to be transformed into pellets that can be reused by manufacturers. Around 60 labs are involved in the initiative.

Reusing with Phoenix Impact

This fall, two laboratories at the J.-Armand-Bombardier Pavilion launched a project with Phoenix Labs, a startup founded by Polytechnique Montréal student Fiona Milano, to reuse single-use lab items. The pilot project assessed the feasibility of reconditioning these items using a process for cleaning hard plastics, such as test tubes, so they can be reused in the same lab conditions.

So far, the results have been promising. The cleaning process was shown to be effective and could potentially make a real difference: if the project is expanded across UdeM's Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine, it could reduce plastic waste by 4.5 tonnes and save $15,000. The project was therefore extended to December and now includes a third partner lab, the CHUM Research Centre.

To join the pilot project or find out more, visit phoeniximpact.ca or email fiona.milano@polymtl.ca.

Recovering and reusing large items

Université de Montréal redesigns its offices on a regular basis. Depending on their needs, units may have to get rid of or reuse some furniture. Most of this second-hand office furniture is still in good condition and can be reused.

The university's Real Estate Division recovers office furniture that units no longer need, such as desks, tables, filing cabinets, chairs, lamps, etc. It doesn't just collect the items, it gives them a second chance by offering them to the community through its sustainable development service.

To find out more, visit di.umontreal.ca/services/mobilier-usage/ (in French only).

About the eco-squad

UdeM's eco-squad supports projects, activities and events on UdeM campuses that are related to sustainable development or environmental responsibility. The eco-squad was launched by the Sustainable Development Unit to support faculties, departments, services and student groups that need people to help with specific mandates.

Do you have an environmentally friendly initiative that could use the eco-squad's help? Email durable@umontreal.ca.