For dorm residents at Oregon State University, takeout cartons from the dining hall used to go in the garbage.
Now they go in the dishwasher.
With fall term about to start, University Housing & Dining Services is rolling out reusable carry-out containers at all 19 restaurants in its three campus dining centers. Made of orange plastic, the clamshell-style Eco2Go containers are dishwasher-safe and designed to be used over and over again.
“They guarantee 50 uses, but in our experience, really it’s way upwards of that,” said Chris Anderson, assistant manager of the Marketplace West Dining Center and one of the people involved in developing the new program.
“They’ll be broken before they wear out.”
The containers were custom-designed for University Housing & Dining Services by EcNow Tech, an Albany company run by an OSU fan.
At a cost of $1.11 for a large and 85 cents for a small, moving to the reusable takeout boxes may eventually save money for OSU, Anderson said. But the real benefit of the switch is that it will keep up to 600,000 single-use containers a year out of the landfill.
“We’ve calculated that 600,000 containers would line I-5 from Corvallis to Portland,” added Jennifer Vina, the housing agency’s marketing director.
After use, the new Eco2Go containers can be rinsed and dropped off in the dish return bins at the dining centers. There are also collection bins on every floor of OSU’s residence halls and at five outdoor locations on campus.
The shift began with a pilot program in 2012 that allowed OSU students, faculty and staff to purchase a reusable green takeout container for $7. Every time they used it, they got a 20-cent discount on their food purchase.
Now University Housing and Dining is in the process of phasing out all of its disposable containers — most of them made from compostable molded fiber — by the end of the term.
Anderson said it’s too soon to tell just how well the new reusable containers will catch on, but the early reviews have been positive.
At lunchtime Thursday, the move got two thumbs up from sophomore Chase Jutzi and junior Stephanie Merrick, who stopped by Marketplace West to pick up slices of cheese pizza before heading back to their dorm.
“It’s really cool because they actually have bins in the dorms and people can just return them,” said Jutzi, a 19-year-old food science major from Lake Oswego.
“Sometimes it’s easier to get your food to go,” added Merrick, a 20-year-old from Oregon City who’s studying economics. “And if you can use it to help the environment, I think that’s great.”
Reporter Bennett Hall can be reached at 541-758-9529 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @bennetthallgt.