Sustainable UCL


How to order sustainable catering at UCL

Plant-based UCL 
PALS goes veggie

  • Research shows that increasing proportion of plant-based meals improves health and is good for the planet. 
  • The meat and dairy industry produces 60% of agricultures’ greenhouse gas emissions and is considered to be the leading cause of species extinction, ocean dead zones, water pollution, habitat destruction and land desertification.
  • Reducing meat consumption improves health and reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, some cancers and type 2 diabetes.

What can I do?

  • Order at least 50% vegetarian and vegan catering. Some departments at UCL have gone 100% vegetarian, see here.
  • Both Vegan and Vegetarian offerings are available by your caterer. They are advertised before the meat options on the catering page. 
  • At big events it is worth ringing UCL’s catering suppliers. They can accommodate your vegetarian and vegan needs and go off menu. They did a delicious vegetarian/vegan catering service at the UCL Sustainability Awards. 


Ditch the Disposable teaser
Since Blue Planet 2 single-use plastic has been a hot topic; By 2050 there could be more plastic in the ocean than fish.


What can I do?

  • Specify china in the special comments box. 
  • Let your invitees know that you will not be providing disposable cups and that they will need to bring their own reusable cups or mugs. This might sound like a shocking thing to do at a high-profile event, but we have trialled this at various events including the ‘It’s All Academic Festival’ and it was warmly received and sparked sustainability conversations. 
  • Shortly Sodexo will be providing a sustainable lunch option - a reusable wooden box instead of the platic sandwhich trays. Communicate to staff that they must be left in the rooms ordered for, so they can be collected for re-use. 

Reusable glass water bottles

Reusable glass water bottles at UCL
UCL caterers are trialling re-usable glass bottles in Bidborough House, Roberts, ICH and School of Pharmacy. If successful, these could replace the recyclable glass bottles provided within the hospitality service.


This is because glass bottles can be used over 50 times. Re-using them reduces the need to manufacture, fill, transport and dispose of single-use bottles. Reusing one bottle can save 1.3 tonnes of CO2. That’s like planting 20 trees! 

What can I do?

Leave your water bottles grouped together with the catering, so they can be collected for re-use.  Please don’t take them to your office or kitchen area and spread the word!

Food Waste

There can be a lot of food waste at events at UCL. 

What can I do?

  • Contact your caterer to advise you on portion size.
  • Contact the UCL Zero Waste Society to find out if they can collect leftover food at your events. 
  • Request a food bin from your caterer.

Sustainable catering at UCL FAQ 

Biodegradables and Compostables

We all want to reduce plastic use, but switching to biodegradable or compostable options unfortunately doesn’t help the environment.

When things are marketed as ‘biodegradable’ or ‘compostable’, it means that they will break down eventually under specific conditions. It does not mean they can go into food or recycling bins at UCL.

Food waste at UCL goes to anaerobic digestion (to be turned into energy). Biodegradable and compostable material interferes with this process. Similarly, these types of packaging contaminate the recycling. They must go into the black refuse bins for incineration.

Incinerating biodegradable plastics in many cases can release more harmful toxins than conventional plastic alternatives. Avoiding biodegradables and compostables all together is best! 


UCL has been working with its catering suppliers to improve UCL’s vegetarian and vegan options.  

  • There is a large variety of vegetarian and vegan options within the hospitality brochure and they are listed before the meat options on the catering website. 
  • There is a vegan counter at the Refectory and each counter offers a vegetarian option. 


Sustainable hospitality box
UCL has been working with its caterers to reduce plastic:
  • Cling film use has reduced by a third through training and reusable bags for hospitality. 
  • UCL caterers are looking at reusable alternatives for cups and plates for hospitality which are robust enough for the trolleys. 
  • UCL caterers are working with their supply chain to reduce plastic packaging on sandwich platters. As an intermediary step, black plastic (which is non-recyclable), has been replaced with clear plastic in sandwich trays. 
  • UCL caterers have designed a 'sustainable option' for catering, a returnable wooden box with salad options inside (coming soon).

Food Waste  

  • UCL caterers have provided better information on food quantities on their ordering system.  
  • UCL caterers use the ‘Too Good To Go app’ to sell unsold food from the refectory at heavily discounted prices. So far 500 meals have been saved.