The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

Reusable ‘Clamshell’ containers could cut down waste

The University Housing and Dining department is conducting a study that could lead to taking the next step with “going green” by implementing reusable take-out containers made of plastic instead of plastic foam.

Mark Hudson, director of Housing and Dining, said Eastern is very concerned about the ecology of its operations and how to be environmentally friendly, while getting students into the practice of being environmentally conscious.

“This is our third year after implementing the carry-out bottle program in the dining halls, so the reusable clamshells are the next potential step if we can figure logistically if it will work and if the students will embrace and run with it,” Hudson said.

At the beginning of the spring 2011 semester, 10 volunteer students were each given a reusable “clamshell” container to test throughout the semester.

Jody Horn, director of Panther Dining Services, described the experiment.

“We are doing a very small pilot program to see what issues there are with the containers, to gather student feedback, gather staff feedback and run what we think would be our plan and see what bugs there are,” Horn said.

The containers can be used at the Taylor Hall Dining Center and the Tower Dining Center in Stevenson Hall.

After using the reusable container, students can exchange it for a clean one in the dining halls.

Horn said one comment from a student in the experiment was that the container was too small and another student said they did not like having to wash the container.

“We did provide directions that included bringing (the reusable container) back dirty and we would wash them, but we will need to consider how to get the students to understand the information we provide to get the full use of the containers,” Horn said.

Hudson said the disposable containers cost about $8,000 a year to purchase.

He said in order to make the operation break even, a reusable clamshell would have to be used 25 times in order to cover the cost of what a reusable clamshell costs versus the disposable one.

“The monetary cost of the product is not the only cost we are factoring in,” Hudson said. “We are concerned with the amount of Styrofoam that is being put into the landfill.”

Hudson said about 30,000 disposable clamshell containers are used and thrown away every semester.

The students participating in the study will be given a survey with questions about whether or not implementing reusable containers would be a reasonable accommodation and if they have any suggestions to offer to make the process more effective.

“The make or break of this is going to be the students’ willingness to carry (the reusable containers) with them and make the effort to use them,” Hudson said.

Horn said they might do a larger study, because having a study with 10 students is great to get some initial feedback from, but once the study is done on a larger scale, issues could multiply.

“If we do make this change, we want to be prepared,” Horn said.

Rachel Rodgers can be reached at 581-7942 or [email protected]

Reusable ‘Clamshell’ containers could cut down waste

Reusable Clamshell containers could cut down waste

Mark Hudson, Director of Housing and Dining, explains the use of reusable take-out go containers that would replace plastic foam boxes in Eastern’s dining halls. Ten student volunteers are testing the “clamshells” throughout the semester. (Seth Schroeder

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