University News

Dining Services adopts eco-friendly bowls

The compostable containers follow other sustainability initiatives by Dining Services

Contributing Writer
Monday, March 11, 2013

Starting this semester, compostable salad containers are offered as an alternative to plastic bowls at the Blue Room and Josiah’s.

Students purchasing salads at both Josiah’s and the Blue Room can elect to use compostable salad containers, an option introduced by Brown Dining Services this semester.

The new containers, made out of compostable wheat straw materials, are longer and more shallow than the old containers, which are made out of plastic. The new containers also come with a plastic top.

Aaron Fitzsenry, culinary manager for retail dining, said he found the new containers online while brainstorming new menu items for the Blue Room. He said he realized just how useful these containers could be as an alternative to the previous plastic containers.

The containers are produced by a company called World Centric, which emphasizes sustainability and economic fairness in the production of its food packaging, according to its website. Its packaging is made of completely compostable material ­— the plant remains of wheat grain and chaff ­­— and is gluten-free. Composting allows for food waste to be put back into the soil and used as a natural fertilizer.

Dining Services has implemented similar initiatives, like eco-friendly reusable takeout containers at the Sharpe Refectory and the Verney-Woolley Dining Hall. Dining Services has also partnered previously with Beyond the Bottle to reduce the use of plastic water bottles on campus.

Fitzsenry said Dining Services is continually striving to decrease student waste at all of its eateries, and staff frequent conferences to find eco-friendly alternatives. He added that these containers are just one example of Dining Services’ greater efforts to continue to implement sustainability measures on campus.

According to Dining Services’ blog, the new containers might appear to hold less food but in fact hold the same amount as the old containers.

Sally Luu ’15 said she feels that the new salad containers seem smaller and not worth using.

Drew Weitman ’15 and Mangala Patil ’13 said they support the eco-friendly aim of the new containers and have chosen to make the switch.

“Even if the containers do hold a little bit less food, it is worth it to help our environment,” said Julia Levy ’16.

But some members of environmentally conscious student groups are more skeptical of the change — including those affiliated with SCRAP, a student group that aims to increase composting on campus.

“We were not behind the new compost-friendly salad containers at Jo’s,” wrote SCRAP member Daniel Sambor ’14 in an email to The Herald. He wrote that the containers are unlikely to be composted as they cannot be put into the “backyard composting systems” set up by SCRAP on campus, and there is no large-scale composting system that can accommodate them in Rhode Island.

“While we don’t yet have the capability to send compostable waste to a commercial composting facility, we are actively working on that and believe it will … eventually be a reality,” Fitzsenry wrote in an email to The Herald.

“These containers are biodegradable, so if they do end up in a landfill, they will break down more quickly than most disposables,” he added.

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  1. That lid is compostable as well! It’s corn-based bio-plastic (polylactic acid)

  2. If the product cannot be sent to a commercial compost facility, Brown is still supporting a product that is made from the byproduct of annually renewable plants (no plants grown specifically for product). Plant based products and polymers typically contain no toxicity either, unless there is resin mixing (petroleum & plant) going. World Centric is transparent about avoiding this.

    Petroleum based plastics are most definitely toxic to the environment and require a finite resource as an input… however they are recyclable. What is the better choice? It’s hard to say as there are many variables by regional waste management infrastructure. And it’s also good to look at what percentage of petroleum based plastic actually end up getting recycled in the end.

  3. PLA depletes the ozone at 3-10 times more than other synthetic resins. Pittsburgh Edu has completed an LCA analysis on the PLA based products and how they contribute to massive amounts of global depletion.

    For more information visit the University of Pittsburgh LCA on Bioplastic

    Jack Roberts
    BioSphere Plastic

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