Arizona State University is using many different techniques to try and reduce waste. In the dining halls instead of plastic straws paper straws are being used as well as reusable food containers that are used at all hours of service. There are also programs that either try and limit the amount of goods that are sent to landfills as well as programs that are not allowing waste that will end up in a landfill to be used at the university. These accommodations have proven successful and are likely to continue being successful in becoming a more sustainable university.
The use of these “green boxes” at the dining halls are not only for the safety of the students in a time of a pandemic but also to help reduce waste. Instead of having to throw away paper containers at every meal, the green boxes are used and then washed and used again throughout the day. They are completely sanitized and have more than enough that in the cases the boxes are not returned they are prepared to continue to use the plastic boxes over the paper boxes. At Gustavus Adolphus College, they implemented a similar program in which the honor system is used and the reusable containers are given out and returned to the kitchen to be cleaned, and are sturdy enough to go through the dishwasher repeatedly (Food Management, 2008). By pairing with Aramark, the reduction of waste has increased and helped students promote more sustainable habits. By implementing these new boxes it shows all students of how easy it is to reuse a container than to constantly be creating waste with plastic products. These boxes also do not limit the all you can eat dining halls since the containers provide more than enough room for a full meal and free refills are given by the hour when you show a receipt. By using these containers ASU has prevented 5,712 pounds of waste from going to landfills (Williams, 2020). As a part of the ASU community living in the dorms and using the dining hall provided I can honestly say I am proud of the choice to use reusable containers as a way to be more sustainable. Since being sustainable is a lot more than just throwing away a soda bottle in a blue bin. ASU has also been successful in the use of reusable cups. The zero waste department hosted 8 green games that encouraged students to practice sustainable living on campus. According to the Zero Waste 2019 Review, 2,692 reusable cups were sold and 6,945 free refills were given. This is what led ASU to win the Pac-12 Zero Waste Challenge Athlete/Player Engagement Award during the 2018 football season. There are even more low waste encouragement events that show the success of reusing cutlery and packaging. At the Campus Staff barbecue, due to the use of reusable forks, “All four staff barbecues achieved a diversion rate above 90% in FY 2019”(Reports, 2020). By not only using reusable forks but also diverting the waste away from landfills, these events become progressively more sustainable and overall better for the campus and planet.
ASU’s implementation of reusable containers in all of its dining locations should be a system that is implemented at many other colleges. It has been proven to not only reduce waste but with other programs put in place keep more waste away from landfills. As well as student and staff encouragement to continue sustainable lifestyles whether at or beyond ASU.
Essay by: Rebecca Pyritz
Arizona State University