In an attempt to move toward a more sustainable system, the Silo Union will no longer give the option of paper or plastic bags to its customers.
Instead, University Dining Services of Sodexo is now offering reusable, biodegradable bags for $5 as a more environment-friendly option.
The bags are made of 100 percent, unbleached cotton and other raw materials from the United States, said James Boushka, the director of marketing of University Dining Services.
“The [$5] cost of the reusable bag is merely an option,” Boushka said.
“Folks do not have to purchase one of our reusable bags – and even to a greater extent, I would encourage existing customers to use their current reusable bags, including their backpacks, or even any reusable bags they may have purchased from another venue,” he said.
By eliminating the use of paper and plastic bags, Sodexo will save approximately $60 per day. More than the financial aspect, the decision will have a significant impact on the environment and save a great amount of energy, Boushka said.
“While $60 doesn’t sound like a lot, it saves more than 60,000 watts of energy to produce those bags – and not to mention deforestation,” Boushka said.
All of the dining facilities that Sodexo operates will no longer offer plastic or paper bags. University Dining Services is not making a profit off the sales, Boushka said.
Eliminating paper and plastic bags is just one of the ways University Dining Services is working to meet the university’s goal of having a 100 percent zero-waste campus by 2020. The University Dining Services is also now providing the Silo staff reusable plastic mugs instead of paper cups for drinks from the fountain or coffee machines to encourage recycling as much as possible, Boushka said.
“[University Dining Services] tells us to be really careful about wasting stuff,” said Laila Salem, a cashier at the Silo.
Last spring, University Dining Services ran an educational awareness campaign within the resident dining commons to alert customers about the amount of energy and chemicals that go into washing 6,000 trays per day. The dining commons did trail runs of going “trayless” and realized that by doing this, it dramatically cut down on water, energy and chemical usage. That realization led to the absence of trays in the dining commons starting this year.
So, when confronted with the “paper or plastic” questions, what is the best answer?
“As a result of going “bagless” and through all of the research that [University Dining Services] has conducted through the sustainability committees here on campus, neither [paper nor plastic] is the best option,” Boushka said.
“It does have to be reminded that [both types] do consume quite a bit of natural resources and both are a significant cause of pollution,” he said.
“I think it’s a good step forward because it’s increasing sustainability in the school which is always good,” said Carlie Whitehouse, a senior biological sciences major. “I mean, it’s not like I ever use the bags anyway, so I don’t think cutting them back will have a negative effect.”
POOJA DEOPURA can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.