Binghamton dining hall introduces reusable to-go boxes

Sodexo and SCC look to increase campus sustainability by reducing waste

Sodexo and the Student Culinary Council (SCC) have implemented the “Choose to Reuse Container Program” to bring reusable takeout containers to dining halls.

Franz Lino/Photo Editor A CIW resident uses the new, recyclable to-go box instead of the usual disposable option. The initial release date of April 22, Earth Day, was meant to showcase Sodexo’s commitment to the environment

The program, which began on April 22, Earth Day, is limited to the College-in-the-Woods dining hall. The first 250 students to sign up were given free plastic to-go boxes, similar in shape to the disposable boxes already available. The takeout boxes are sealable and designed to be carried around without leaking.

Upon returning to the dining hall with their used containers, students can exchange the used box for a clean one. Then, according to John Enright, director of Resident Dining, the used box will be cleaned by Sodexo workers along with the other dishes from the dining hall and put back into circulation.

“As part of Sodexo’s commitment to sustainability, when the request from the SCC came up, we were more than happy to implement the ‘Choose to Reuse Container Program,’” Enright wrote in an email. “The program will help to reduce the use of paper in the dining centers.”

The SCC is a group of students that meets with Sodexo chefs and managers on a biweekly basis to discuss dining on campus. It worked with Sodexo to implement this program.

According to Enright, the expansion of this program to other dining halls will benefit students, Sodexo and the environment. He said that students and Sodexo will benefit fiscally, as “Choose to Reuse” will eliminate the cost of disposable to-go boxes. He also added that the money Sodexo saves will lower the fees students incur. The reusable containers will also decrease waste created by excessive use of disposable to-go boxes.

Freshman Angela Alexander, however, said the program had problems in practice.

“I just don’t think a college student is going to remember to take a container with them everywhere they go, especially if it takes up room in their bag they need for books,” said Alexander, a freshman double-majoring in actuarial science and economics.

Another issue raised by students since the launch of the program has been that the return station has not been staffed, so students can’t acquire a replacement box or return their dirty one. Some students have reported that this has created an inconvenience deterred them from the program.

“I thought it was a great idea and signed up for one on the first day,” said Maryam Haque, an undeclared sophomore who lives in CIW. “But whenever I try to return it, no one’s there, and there’s no signs telling me where to put them.”

Enright responded to these claims by noting that all employees know about the program and should swap out the boxes when asked.

“The deli attendant, (there is always one present at this station) can accept the used container and issue a new one,” he wrote. “In the event a deli attendant isn’t available, any other employee can assist with the redemption process.”

Other changes Sodexo has implemented as a result of the SCC’s suggestions include white boards for suggestions in the dining halls and alternate sizes for a variety of products at the Marketplace.