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Cal Poly pilots reusable dining containers to curb waste

Students opt for green alternative via the Grubhub mobile ordering app

CampusIDNews Staff   ||   Feb 28, 2024  ||   

Students at Cal Poly have been pushing for green initiatives on the San Luis Obispo campus, and dining services is listening. A new pilot program will test reusable containers in an effort to reduce waste from disposable take-out boxes.

“The program greatly reduces resource consumption on campus while diverting single-use containers from landfills,” says a Cal Poly spokesperson.

Campus Dining’s sustainability coordinator Kaitlin Gibbons told the MustangNews, “it has been a longtime goal of ours to expand our reusables on campus to meet our zero waste goals and do the right sustainable thing.”

The pilot will take place at two campus dining locations with ReusePass, a solution that includes a reusable takeout container system with a mobile app for check-out.

At Cal Poly, ReusePass works in tandem with the institution’s existing Grubhub mobile ordering solution.

Students opt in to ReusePass and then use the Grubhub app to specify that they want their meal in a reusable container. Students have 10 days to return used containers to dedicated drop-off receptacles in the dining facilities. Containers are then washed and prepared for next use.

“That was really the key for us in choosing this company as it will enable students to choose a reusable option when ordering on GrubHub,” says Gibbons.

How does it work?

Rather than show the ReusePass QR code when ordering a to-go meal, Grubhub passes the QR code directly to the dining team. The container is automatically checked-out to the student’s ReusePass account before it's placed on the pick-up shelf.

This streamlines the process for both the student and the dining staff.

ReusePass says that in a single semester, students across the country used its containers to save nearly 7 tons of waste from landfills, conserve more than 85,000 gallons of water, and keep 90,000 lbs of GHG emissions from going out into the atmosphere.

Cal Poly is also piloting a compostable container solution, but it has faced challenges as students don’t always sort correctly between trash and recyclables. They also tend to leave plastic silverware in the compostable container, which hampers compostability.

According to Gibbons, campus dining is considering wood utensils to prevent plastic from entering the compost bins.

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