At Eckerd College, in St. Petersburg, Fla., a student has designed a reusable takeout container called the EcoClamshell. Dining services is taking advantage of her design to try and kick its polystyrene habit.
At 2,800-Eckerd College, a student-designed reusable takeout container called the EcoClamshell is trying to replace polystyrene containers for good. Audrey Copeland, a 2007 graduate, designed the new container.
"Our society values convenience," Copeland says in a university press release. "In a college cafeteria, convenience is translated to disposable takeout containers. The outcome? Tons of unnecessary landfill waste. Eckerd's EcoClamshell offers a recycling system that is cost-efficient, sanitary, environmentally friendly and convenient."
Jamie Llovera, general manager at the Bon Appétit account, says Copeland was adamant about getting rid of the polystyrene containers the college uses for takeout
“She talked to one of our suppliers to see how much it would cost to make the EcoClamshells,” Llovera says. “We found out they were able to do it at a reasonable price. We helped her with the correct dimensions and we talked about how it needed to be able to withstand the heat of the dishwasher. She contacted the Environmental Research and Education Foundation and received a $32,000 grant. Out of that grant, she used 45% to purchase the EcoClamshells for the school.”
The EcoClamshells debuted in the fall and Llovera says they’ve been very popular. Students pay a one-time fee of $5, which goes back into the grant. The money generated through sales helps fund replacements or new clamshell purchases. Dining Services keeps track of the students who paid and when a student wants to use their EcoClamshell, they can take it with them and return it later. Dining Services washes the clamshells and gives students a new one next time.
“We have about 293 out of about 1,000 students on the board plan using them,” Llovera says. “They enjoy the fact that they don’t have to worry about anything if it breaks or something. We still offer polystyrene but hopefully next year we will move completely away from it.”
Copeland worked closely with Eckerd's Sustainable Campus Task Force and Bon Appétit to test and experiment with the design—all to make sure the container would be a success.
“We’ve seen about a 75% reduction in the use of polystyrene,” Randy De Mers (checked), regional manager for Bon Appétit, says. “The EcoClamshells are more expensive then the polystyrene, but since we have a system where students pay for it, they can use it for four years. Plus, the students wanted to do it; that’s why we made it a voluntary program. We kept the polystyrene because some students still choose to use it but we went from using about four cases a week to using about 1/2 case a week.”