Concordia mobilizes to combat wasting unsold food and clothes

As the city of Montreal announced its new plans last week to tackle food and clothes waste, Concordia is already taking steps to do just that. 

In the city’s proposal, Mayor Valerie Plante and her team aim to ban stores from dumping unsold clothes and food, in an attempt to become zero waste by 2030. A plan released on Oct. 17 lays out their goal to reduce food waste by 50 per cent in five years, and reduce Montreal’s commercial textile waste.

According to Faisal Shennib, an environmental specialist who is managing Zero Waste Concordia (ZWC), they are already taking steps to reduce food waste.

“We’ve always aimed to reduce waste from landfills as much as possible,” said Shennib. “Organics are the top contributors of waste from our institutions, and they release a lot of methane when they go into the landfills, so it’s an easy target for us.”

ZWC plans to make compost bins accessible in each food consumption area at Concordia, and wants to figure out a program to process the organics that are composted in a sustainable way.

“But then what we realized is that we weren’t connecting usable food waste to people who could use it,” said Shennib.

Their pilot project, tentatively named Zero Waste Concordia’s Food Donation Program, was launched this September. It aims to get restaurants and cafes renting space at the university to move toward eliminating their food waste.

The project has three phases. The first is to educate the tenants, such as Subway, Java U and, Jugo Juice, about basic sustainability, like recycling and composting. The second phase is planned to launch next semester and aims to formally give them the opportunity to partner with organizations like La Tablée des Chefs. Their food recovery program redistributes surplus food to community organizations that provide food to the homeless. The third is to encourage tenants to rethink their food packaging and use of plastics in their businesses.

ZWC already informally contacted some tenants for the project, and most either expressed interest or are already involved in another food redistribution charity. Concordia as an institution already has a contract with La Tablée des Chefs. ZWC is also trying to get confirmation from the university to allow their tenants to be covered under their agreement.

“They use our landfill container at the end of the day,” said Shennib. “They actually throw out all that food, potentially, unless they have their own program.”

The project is also working to reduce food waste from university events by working with Hospitality Concordia, who organizes events at the institution. Hospitality Concordia already has a partnership with Tablée des Chefs but was targeting larger events. ZWC wants to target smaller, student-run events that may also be wasting food.

“There’s also a smaller ecosystem we want to build,” continued Shennib. “Say a student club serves food to 10 people, and then they have a lot of cookies leftover and nobody wants to take it from the group- it shouldn’t have to go to waste either. We’re trying to collaborate with health food co-op Frigo Vert to potentially use them as a place where students can bring them their leftovers, and they can offer them to the community.”

School Stores: Unsold Clothes

Melanie Burnett, the general manager for Concordia Stores, said they rarely ever throw away clothes because they almost always sell their apparel. Burnett said they have sales to sell unsold clothes and that they also recently donated their apparel to a charity.

She explained the only time they throw away clothes from their stores is if they are damaged and unsellable.

Concordia Stores also have a partnership with Concordia University’s Centre for Creative Reuse (CUCCR). Burnett said they have donated some unsold art supplies to CUCCR for creative purposes in the past, and have given them wooden shelves the Stores were no longer using.

“By fixing ambitious targets and giving ourselves the means to attain them, our city will deploy the necessary efforts to make its ecological transition more concrete,” said executive committee member Laurence Lavigne Lalonde. Lalonde is responsible for the ecological transition and resilience of l’Espace pour la vie et de l’agriculture urbaine.

Concordia has several other initiatives aiming to reduce food waste, such as the Dish Project, Waste Not Want Not and the Concordia Food Coalition. 


Feature photo by Laurence B.D.

Student Life

Redefining waste for a cleaner tomorrow

In pursuit of waste justice: student groups launch Concordia’s first Zero Waste Week

How many times a day do you throw something in the trash? Do you give it much thought when you do? New research published by the Worldwatch Institute suggests that the amount of waste produced worldwide could double by 2025—from today’s 1.3 billion tons per year to a whopping 2.6 billion.

In an effort to promote sustainable waste management practices, Concordia student groups such as the Dish Project, Concordia’s Centre for Creative Reuse (CUCCR) and Waste Not Want Not are kicking off the university’s first edition of Zero Waste Week on Oct. 23.

The principal organizer of Zero Waste Week is the Dish Project. This student-run, zero-waste resource organization will be hosting multiple workshops from Oct. 23 to 27 that offer creative solutions for reducing waste. The Dish Project aims to reduce the volume of disposable items sent to landfills by storing and lending out reusable dishes to Concordia students hosting events. The service is available at little-to-no cost, making it accessible and economical.

The Dish Project offers a variety of reusable dishes for events on campus. Photo courtesy of the Dish Project.

“Up until recently, the Dish Project was mostly just focused on our operations of lending out reusable dishes to help reduce waste in and around Concordia,” said Vanessa Macri, the organization’s general coordinator. “However, after reevaluating ourselves internally, we thought that there was a gap with waste justice education on campus. So now we’ve started engaging with students a lot more. One thing that we thought would be a great vehicle to help us do that was Quebec’s Waste Reduction Week [from Oct. 21 to 29].”

Maya Spring, the Dish Project’s outreach and engagement coordinator, will be co-hosting four workshops over the course of Zero Waste Week. “I find that, in today’s society, there’s such a disconnect between us and the waste that we produce,” Spring said. “I think the first step towards breaking that disconnect is talking about waste, which is a huge part of Zero Waste Week and the workshops we’re putting on.”

CUCCR will also be participating in Zero Waste Week with a “Do It Yourshelf” shelf-making workshop on Oct. 27. For those who have yet to discover its hidden location in the Hall building basement, CUCCR is an initiative that collects used art materials and supplies from around campus and makes them available for repurpose by the general public.

Rather than solely focusing on waste reduction, CUCCR looks at how unwanted materials can actually be useful to people. Recent Concordia MA graduate Anna Timm-Bottos spearheaded this project with the help of funding won in Concordia’s Big Hairy Ideas competition. “I saw so much material being thrown out that I knew someone else could use if only we could capture it,” she said, adding that CUCCR plays a key role in Concordia’s sustainability efforts and in changing the larger culture around waste.

Waste-sorting games will be hosted in the downtown library cafeteria on Oct. 25 and 27 by Concordia’s composting advocacy group, Waste Not Want Not. Another beneficiary of the Big Hairy Ideas competition, Waste Not Want Not works to strengthen Concordia’s infrastructure in pursuit of zero-waste goals. Anyone conscious of their trash output is likely already aware of the many benefits of composting—not only does separating organics from other trash decrease the amount of waste sent to landfills, it also reduces greenhouse gas emissions and creates fertilizer for plants. Waste Not Want Not’s mandate includes providing access to on-site composting facilities, increasing the number of composting bins around campus and educating students on why composting is integral to building a more sustainable future, according to the organization’s website.

“We’re hoping this week will open people’s eyes to the impacts of waste. It’s one thing to recycle and compost, but it’s another thing to understand where your waste actually goes,” Macri said. “We want Zero Waste Week to show that waste reduction doesn’t just stop at recycling and composting—you can also reduce, upcycle, reuse materials and get creative with how you’re repurposing waste. Hopefully folks will take that away along with how many opportunities there are at Concordia to get involved in the waste justice movement.”

For additional information about the Dish Project, visit To find out more about CUCCR, drop by H013-7, open Tuesdays to Thursdays between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. or visit For details about the Waste Not Want Not composting advocacy group, visit

Student Life

An update on Waste Not Want Not

Concordia campaign wants to make composting a university lifestyle by increasing compostable bins

Concordia’s first-ever compost campaign will be expanding their efforts this year, increasing both the number of bins available on campus and student awareness, announced one of the campaign’s founding members, Keroles Riad.

When Riad, a Ph.D student in the individualized program of engineering, started the “Waste Not, Want Not” compost campaign two years ago, there were only nine compost bins available at the University.

“This year, we are going to increase to about 60 compost bins around campus,” Riad said, adding that he’s also looking to show incoming Concordia students that making use of the compost bins is an established culture.

“We will have new students, and we don’t want it to be presented as something new that you need to make an extra effort, but more like, ‘This is the culture of Concordia,’” Riad said. “The most helpful thing students can do is to show that they are responding [to the campaign.] Riad said he was motivated to start the campaign two years ago after the university’s composter — which turns food waste into soil — malfunctioned. According to Riad, the machine, which had been purchased by Sustainable Concordia, was not properly maintained.

Now, Concordia has to ship most of its organic waste to a composting facility in Ontario. According to Riad, approximately 74 per cent of compostable waste from Concordia goes to a landfill.

Organic waste that ends up in landfills, Riad explained, can be harmful to the environment. “Organic waste in landfills [does] not become soil. It doesn’t decompose in a way that becomes soil again. It ends up emitting a lot of methane and pollutes water,” he said. “You can cut how much you have to send to landfills by half if you compost. The idea is not just to compost but to reduce waste, which is the ultimate goal.”

Seeking to improve Concordia’s composting situation, Riad contacted Peter Stoett, the director of the Loyola Sustainability Research Centre, and Roger Côté, the university’s vice-president of services. He said the goal was to start a composting campaign to help Concordia students and faculty make a productive change to help reduce waste.

“I was hoping to reach towards a better way of composting,” Riad said, adding that the campaign’s name comes from an expression used during World War II that advocates minimalism. “It’s a message to encourage people to reduce their waste.”

Available on Concordia’s website is a list of the locations of compostable bins on campus on Concordia’s website. By the end of last semester, there was a total of 27 bins total at the downtown campus and at the Loyola campus. According to Riad, it’s also possible to request a compost bin for any events happening on campus. The bins can be spotted by their orange lids, and they are usually placed alongside garbage and recycling bins.

Also available on the university’s website is a list of acceptable compostable items, including leftover food, paper, tissues, apple cores, fruit peels and brown paper bags. There are also examples of non-compostable items, notably anything plastic, such as coffee cup lids.

In addition to its benefits for the environment, Riad explained, the campaign also aims to transform organic matter into soil and fertilizer for food production. “We will be merging with the sustainability ambassadors program to ensure the sustainability of the campaign. The soil created from Concordia’s organic waste is distributed to gardeners and farmers to be used on their crops. It’s a question of caring enough to do it and spending an extra second at the waste station to put the stuff where they belong,” said Riad.

For more information about the university’s composting projects, visit Sustainable Concordia’s website, at

A call out for all interested volunteers to visit this website:  

Photo by Kim Gagnon

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