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Columbia College Chicago
Catering Guidelines (Waste Minimization and Recycling)
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Catering Guidelines (Waste Minimization and Recycling)

Catering Guidelines (Waste Minimization and Recycling)

The Columbia Recycling Program’s goal is to minimize waste and ensure we are reclaiming material through recycling. To this end, we need cooperation with all events planners and catering suppliers to assure we meet these goals. The idea of waste minimization is a key tenet on Columbia College’s road to sustainability.

Below are guidelines we want set in place to meet these goals.

If you have any other ideas to add, we would like to hear them. Thank you for your support.

Recycling / What can be recycled?

  • Aluminum Cans/Trays
  • Glass Bottles
  • Plastic bottles (#1 PET, PETE) and #2 (HDPE)
  • Any plastic containers/plates that are not #6 (PS) Polystyrene or Styrofoam
  • Paper bags or boxes
  • All cardboard

 If you are providing plastic service ware (cups, plates, packaging), we ask that you supply plastic that is a type #1 (PET,PETE) or #2(HDPE).


Composting/ What can be composted?

Compostable plastics have to meet ASTM D6400 certification. This paperwork needs to be supplied to us prior to the event.

 All paper products can be included as compost. This includes waxed lined cups, napkins and plates. Product examples include the Greenware ™ line or EcoProducts line.


  • We encourage carafes or cambros for water, juice or coffee. This eliminates plastic bottle waste. 
  •  For hot beverages, supply paper cups.
  •  No Styrofoam, in any form, should be brought in to any event.
  •  When providing cream or milk, we encourage single cartons or small reusable pitcher/dispensers.
  •  Minimize the amount of additional stirrers, straws, and coffee cup sleeves.


Food Service

  • Order accordingly to the amount of guests that you anticipate. Please curb over ordering.
  •  Food served in a buffet style setting is most encouraged. Having items available for patrons to take as they need reduces the amount of food/waste thrown away.
  •  Fruit, vegetables, cheeses, desserts, etc should always be displayed on trays to serve patrons. Toothpicks are a preferred server.
  •  Single serving bags of chips, etc should be presented on a reusable tray or basket. 


Food Packaging

  • For lunches, we would encourage less packaging. Clamshell food boxes (#6 PS) are not recyclable.
  •  Paper bags or paper boxes are recyclable and thus ideal.
  •  Buffet serving is the best standard for waste minimization. To package sandwiches, wraps etc, a paper wrapper is preferred (making sure to meet any food safety regulations).
  •  Salads are the exception as they need to be packaged. Salad dressing should be available in a small reusable pitcher/dispenser. If using single serving packages, they should not be packaged inside the salad. Leave out for patrons to choose if they want. Choose a plastic packaging that follows our plastic recycling guidelines.
  •  For boxed lunches or salads do not include single serving silverware, napkins, or condiments. We recommend they be left out and available for patrons to take as needed. These ideas aim to help reduce any unused items from ending up in the garbage.
  •  For condiments, dispensers would we preferred. Single serving packets not used become waste.
  • Disposable silverware and napkins are always waste. We would ask to limit the amount present.
  • Please have these items available for patrons to take on a need to basis. Any unused stock should be taken back with catering or reused by sponsoring department.
  •  Table cloths should be provided only when requested. Smaller events do not require table cloths. We would accept paper only (not plastic or paper lined with plastic) table cloths, as they will be disposed after the event. Linen service would be ideal. Work within these guidelines to meet budget.


Buffet Service

This option should be considered for all large catering parties and college events.

  •  Hot Buffets, we can recycle aluminum trays and covers. Catering should take back metal chafing racks.
  • Sternos are waste.
  •  Cold Buffets, serve food on reusable trays, baskets, or dishes.
  •  Reusable silverware, glassware, service ware, and linens are encouraged. Take back all reusable items.


Waste Minimization Check list:



Single serving bottled water

Plastics #1 and #2 bottles, aluminum cans

Single serving packets (ketchup, etc)

Bulk containers (like ketchup dispensers)

Plastics #3-7

Paper packaging and toothpicks

All  Styrofoam

Buffet Style Trays and Baskets

Excessive quantities of food

Appropriate food portions

Disposable containers for foods

Cambros, carafes, or pitchers

Biodegradable/Compostable certified products

Include Paper Products when available


Wholesale Suppliers

Ask your catering contact who they purchase their service ware/supplies from. They need to ask for items that are able to be recycled (i.e. made from #1 or #2 plastics) or better choices for the environment (i.e. are chlorine or unbleached). Larger suppliers like Sodexo, Aramark, and Gordon Food Services offer these products.

 Product Example: The Solo brand Bare line is recyclable and made from recycled content.

 Contact Recycling

Prior to an event, please contact John Wawrzaszek, the Columbia Recycling Manager. We will need detailed information on the event set up and service. Please supply us with an event supervisor or contact person that will be on hand at the event. We will go over our waste and recycling options with them once on location.

 Contact John Wawrzaszek (Recycling Manager) at 312-369-7675 or email at recycling@colum.edu.