I am sure most, if not all, Binghamton University students are familiar with the OZZI system. We’ve all seen the bright green plastic boxes in the dining halls and around campus. The system was introduced earlier this school year in an effort to reduce the number of single-use to-go boxes that end up in landfills. These single-use boxes are still available at the dining halls, but students now must pay a small fee in order to use them.
My first concern with the OZZI system is the sanitation and overall cleanliness of the containers. My experience with the OZZI system has been less than optimal in this regard. I only used the OZZI machines once while in Appalachian Collegiate Center, where the box I received was streaked and grimy. Obviously, this presents a sanitary issue and calls into question if the boxes are being properly and thoroughly cleaned. On OZZI’s website, the cleaning of the boxes by staff members is described as an essential part of the system, and without it there would be much less of an incentive for a student to use an OZZI box, as single-use boxes present a much more sanitary option. This lack of cleanliness could also present a health issue for students with allergies, because if there is food residue still on a box, it could possibly cause a serious allergic reaction.
The issue of proper sanitation should be taken very seriously by the University, especially with the advent of the coronavirus, which can remain viable on surfaces for up to 72 hours. It will be imperative to maintain proper cleanliness once the new school year starts to prevent the contamination and spread of any such diseases. The only way for the OZZI system to remain a viable alternative to single-use boxes is to ensure that each and every box is properly cleaned and decontaminated. Viruses such as COVID-19 are vulnerable to high temperatures and a sustained heat of 158 degrees Fahrenheit will kill most viruses, according to the World Health Organization. A steam bath with high temperatures could work as a sanitizer as the OZZI boxes are made of number 5 plastic, also known as polypropylene, which is capable of withstanding temperatures of over 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Another possible solution to this would be to temporarily put a halt on the OZZI system entirely until the threat of the virus is diminished or nullified.
In terms of conservation, I believe the OZZI system is a step in the right direction, but there is still more BU can do to further this goal. Currently, single-use plastic utensils are readily available in every dining hall at BU. According to National Geographic, about 91 percent of plastics are not recycled, most of which are single-use products like these utensils. Approximately 100 million single-use plastic utensils are used by Americans every day, and even if plastic utensils are correctly disposed of in the proper recycling bins, their inconsistent shapes make them difficult to recycle, leading most “recycled” cutlery to end up in landfills anyway. While BU does provide metal utensils in the dining halls as a reusable option, this does not change the fact that many students still use the disposable utensils. In fact, due to COVID-19, BU removed all metal utensils and switched to individually wrapped plastic utensils in the dining halls, a change that may still be in effect during the next school year. This change, while much more sanitary, will undoubtedly lead to more waste. In order to combat this, BU has several options, including charging for single-use plastic utensils once metal utensils are reintroduced or by replacing single-use plastic utensils with single-use compostable utensils.
It is hypocritical for BU to charge students for paper to-go boxes, which are compostable and biodegradable, but still offer thousands of plastic utensils for free in every dining hall on a regular basis. These utensils are arguably much worse for the environment, as plastic can take hundreds of years to break down, while paper boxes decay in mere weeks.
I believe that projects like the OZZI system, which were created to reduce pollution and waste, are admirable and worth pursuing. While it is not a perfect system, its implementation shows that BU is taking some steps to combat pollution.
Joseph Vernice is a sophomore majoring in English.