Dining Services offers reusable takeout bags, reduces waste
In an effort to reduce the amount of plastic bags used when serving students food at takeout, University Dining Services gave out black canvas reusable bags for free at the start of the semester, but is now charging $1 per bag.
More than 1.5 million plastic bags were handed out through takeout at the dining halls last year alone, according to the Dining Services website.
“We’ve had a lot of concern by students that the plastic bags are not environmentally sound as far as the choice for carry out,” said Joseph Charette, executive director of Dining Services.
While the bags were originally given out for free, a fee has been added for those who choose to reduce the use of plastic bags.
“In the long run, yes, the bags are about $1 a piece so it’s definitely going to cost less for the University,” Charette said.
Dining Services has given away free items, in the past, such as reusable water bottles and now reusable bags, he said.
Charette said he began to get more students who strongly suggested Dining Services eliminate the use of plastic bags completely, he said.
“In takeout, there are a lot of pieces to take back with you, and we thought students would have a lot of trouble getting it back to their rooms or wherever they may be eating, so we wanted to find something reusable,” he said.
The money to pay for the bags comes from the department’s budget for supplies, which is normally used for take out materials, including napkins, plastic utensils and plastic bags, Charette said.
If students remember to use the reusable bags, he said the program would show a significant reduction in Dining Services’ total purchase and consumption of plastic bags in less than one year.
“We’re going to be encouraging our students [to use the reusable bags] with student groups and signage … so we’re not constantly giving out plastic bags,” he said.
In addition to the reduction in waste and costs by the University, Dining Services has remained aware of its carbon emissions.
“Dining Services has contributed greatly to reducing the carbon footprint at the University,” said Dianne Gravatt, director of Facilities Management at the University.
Students throw so many water bottles and plastic bags away in the trash each year, she said. By providing reusable liquid containers and tote bags, students can help save while adopting greener alternatives.
“One of the biggest contaminants in the environment is plastic bags,” Gravatt said. “[Plastic bags] not only harm the environment, but also the animals because they never biodegrade.”
If it were up to him, Charette said people would not use any disposables.
“Even with the bag, people are using something to hold their food and their beverages, [as in] straws and lids, and they’re taking a variety of items that need to be either recycled, composted or go to a landfill,” Charette said.
He said he hopes Dining Services is allowing students to make sound decisions with the materials provided for them.
“Everyone everywhere has to have some consciousness about the choices they make,” Charette said.
Collen Thiersh, a School of Engineering junior, is happy Dining Services chose to offer reusable bags for takeout.
“I think the reusable bags at takeout are a really clever idea,” she said. “The people I live with in our suite, we keep them all right next to the door, so whenever anyone’s going to go get takeout, we just bring them along and save a plastic bag.”