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Boston College adds reusable, to-go containers in dining

Boston College Dining Services is set to provide reusable to-go containers for use in campus dining halls this semester. The introduction of the reusable containers is just one of a series of sustainability efforts taking root at the college.

As reported by BC Heights, the new program is intended to provide an environmentally friendly alternative to disposable paper and plastic containers currently in use, as well as reduce the amount lost cutlery and china from dining facilities.

Julianne Stelmaszyk, manager of regional and sustainable food systems for BC Dining, says that some 60% of the food purchased in BC dining halls is taken to-go. Additionally, the last academic year alone saw the BC student body consume some 3.5 million plastic utensils, 700,000 straws, and 360,000 coffee cups.

It was decided, then, that a disposable to-go container program would be the best solution to attack the sustainability issue on both fronts. BC Dining was initially worried that students would not return the to-go containers in a timely fashion to claim new ones, so it looked to other universities for inspiration.

BC Dining reportedly found some inspiration in Virginia Tech and its initiative with OZZI. Specifically, BC honed in on the container return process and the automated kiosk units that the solution leverages. The college ultimately decided that the cost of each kiosk at $13,999, along with the roughly $100 of maintenance per year and separate purchases of OZZI-compatible containers, was cost prohibitive.

Expensive hardware aside, BC recognized the need to track to-go containers to ensure that students were returning them for clean replacements. And crucially, students that lose or otherwise choose not to return a box are then charged to their student account for the price of the box.

BC Dining ultimately landed on a more basic return process that takes a manual approach to the automated kiosk formula of solutions like OZZI.

BC students and faculty buy into the program at a price of $8.00. Early adopters in the program — within the first two weeks at designated Green2Go tables — will be given two initial tokens. Students then go through the food service line and request a G2G box. To complete the transaction, students return to the dining hall register, and present a token in exchange for the container.

After the initial transaction, BC has implemented a token system for the containers that sees students return their to-go box to the dining hall in exchange for another token in the form of a carabiner keychain. Students and faculty can enter back into the program at any time for another $8.00, or if they lose a container or token.

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