Reusable container program meets health department rules

Published in FSD Update

Students at Virginia Tech can now choose a reusable to-go container rather than a foam one at the West End, one of the campus’s 11 dining halls.

After paying a $12 annual membership fee, students receive a keychain with three tags, each representing a container that they can check out. They trade in the tags for a reusable container at the time of service, and dining staff will put the chosen food items directly into it. When students are finished with the container, they simply exchange it for a new tag. The used containers are then cleaned and sanitized by dining services staff. The program began last semester, according to Rial Tombes, sustainability coordinator for dining services.

A reusable container program was in place previously. However, students were required to wash and return the containers themselves. Due to health department regulations, dining services could not put food directly into the containers. Instead, students had to move their meal items from the service plate into the container.

In part due to the fact that the program is only at one location, only about 1 percent of to-go meals are placed in the reusable containers. Tombes hopes to have the program in place at multiple dining facilities or charge for the use of foam containers to increase participation.