Reusable containers coming soon to dining commons

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- With busy schedules, students often find it hard to justify sitting down in the dining commons for an extended lunch or dinner. Many students now take advantage of the carryout containers offered in the dining commons. In fact, Pollock goes through 300-400 containers each day.

While the carryout containers offer convenience for students and staff, as polystyrene they add to Penn State’s carbon footprint ending up in the landfill when not disposed of properly. In an effort to be more sustainable, Penn State Food Services has found a solution with reusable plastic containers.

According to Lisa Wandel, director of residential dining, Penn State Food Services has wanted to offer reusable containers for quite some time. Despite hitting some roadblocks, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture finally approved their use at Penn State. Currently, two students are overseeing the pilot program.

“It’s very important that students are part of our pilots and initiatives,” explained Wandel. “Their perspective is important and they know what might or might not sell to their peers.”

The reusable containers will operate much like the current carryout containers. In the all-you-can-eat dining locations on campus, students and staff will pick up a container at the cashier. When they bring the container back, they will give it to the cashier and receive a clean container if they want carryout. If not, they will be given a carabineer to keep with their ID for their next carryout meal. Students and staff using the containers will be charged a one-time fee at their first use and issued a refund at the end of the semester upon return of the container or carabineer.

This is just one more example of a concerted effort by units across Penn State striving to be more sustainable.

“Eating in the dining commons is the most sustainable option because we use china and wash it,” said Wandel. “However, we know students are very busy and many want to take their food to go. If we can capture even a small percentage of the students using polystyrene containers, it’ll make a difference.”

Students and staff should be on the lookout for the reusable containers at Pollock Dining Commons after spring break. The test pilot will be running at both Pollock Dining Commons and Behrend Campus Dining.

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