The $5 fee that Aramark, the company in charge of on-campus food services, has begun to charge for the new plastic to-go containers, aims to prevent students from walking away with the containers without returning them to the cafeteria.
The plastic containers replaced the Styrofoam containers that students formerly used to take food out of the cafeteria. The change took place after President Thomas Keefe and a group of students requested that the cafeteria have more environmentally friendly containers. Charging a fee ensures that students take care of them, according to Aramark.
“If there is not some type of penalty associated, there would be no accountability not to lose them or throw them away,” Dining Services Director Darren St. Romain said to explain the $5 fee.
On another campus that had recently changed to plastic containers, the students lost a total of 300 containers in the first semester which resulted in significant replacement costs, especially
since Aramark had not charged $5 to replace the lost containers, according to St. Romain. The plastic containers cost Aramark $10 a piece.
As reported in the last issue of The University News, Aramark spends $7,000 a year in plastic containers, compared to $12,000 for Styrofoam boxes, according to an Aramark presentation to Student Government last year.
For Aramark, the move to “green” containers did not mean that costs would be lower for students.
“The new recyclable ‘to-go’ containers were implemented on the request of the president of the university and the student body,” Assistant Dining Services Director Sean Doran wrote in an e-mail. “It had nothing at all to do with what we were spending on Styrofoam and that they would be cheaper.”
He added, “It had to do with how many we go through in a year and the impact it has on the environment.”
St. Romain agreed that the main focus was to be more eco-friendly.
“Truly this is a move to going sustainable – making the campus more green,” he said.
St. Romain said that the cafeteria would have eventually been required to implement a similar program due to the increasing unpopularity of Styrofoam. According to ABC News, California became the first state to pass a bill to ban Styrofoam, which will go into effect in January 2016.
Although the cafeteria directors would not be able to implement a large number of new environmentally friendly policies all in one semester, they hope to continue increasing such practices in the future. According to Doran, the cafeteria has already eliminated all Styrofoam from its facilities.
“In three to five years, hopefully we’ll be keeping pace with the rest of the sustainable markets,” St. Romain said.