Sustainability

American University brings reusable to-go containers to campus dining

Students enrolled in a meal plan will now receive free reusable takeout ware.
student using a reusable container
American University serves approximately 39,000 meals in takeout containers each semester / Photo courtesy of the university

American University (AU) has launched a reusable to-go container program in the hopes of reducing packaging waste on campus.

Students enrolled in a meal plan will now receive a free OZZI takeout container, and the containers are also available for purchase by staff, faculty and students who do not have meal plans.

The Washington, D.C., school serves approximately 39,000 meals in takeout containers each semester, according to a statement from the university. It estimates that 2,571 pounds of waste will be diverted from landfills as a result of the new program.

This initiative is part of the university’s larger sustainability goals, which aim to achieve zero waste by 2030. AU plans to eliminate single-use plastics and containers, as well as increase the percentage of waste that is composted and recycled, according to the statement.

“As the dining provider on campus, we are committed to supporting American University’s efforts to achieve their zero waste goals,” said Monalisa Prasad, national director of sustainability  for Chartwells Higher Education, which manages foodservice at the university. “The introduction of OZZI’s reusable to-go containers is just one example of how we are working together to reduce waste at its source for a more sustainable future.”

AU has also received a grant from the District of Colombia Ditch the Disposables Award Program, which supports schools and community-based organizations in their waste-reduction efforts.

To kick off the reusables program, the university held a “waste less” event on the first day of classes, during which students were introduced to the composting program as well as the new containers.

Reusable Containers  
American University estimates it will divert 2,571 pounds of waste from landfills via the new program. / Photo courtesy of the university 

“AU is committed to acting on its zero-waste goals and to further reducing its impact on the environment,” said Megan Litke, director of sustainability. “The use of reusable containers helps to reduce the amount of waste sent to the landfill and reduces emissions from the creation and disposal of single-use items. It also supports Washington, D.C., in its goal to reduce single-use foodservice items across the city.”

Reusable container programs have been emerging in various dining programs throughout the country, but such programs can bring their own set of challenges. Northwestern University, for example, has had issues with students failing to return their reusable containers and has since adjusted its program to account for that obstacle.

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