Take out containers
One interesting project that just got started this year at both Eckerd and Oberlin Colleges is the use of reusable take out containers, called eco-clamshells, in the dinning halls. The program was started at Eckerd College, by an alum who now works for the school. The product, a typical to-go container, is made of plastic and manufactured by GET Enterprises.
The way that the program currently works is that students sign up for a container with their name and student ID number, $5 is charged to their account via their meal plan and then they are able to “check out” a container when they leave the cafeteria and then “check in” the same container to a dirty dishes tub upon return to the cafeteria for it to go through the dishwasher system where it is sterilized. Currently the program is run by an “exchange model” meaning that when a container is returned the student receives a card representing that container that they can then turn in again at their point of checkout in exchange for a new, clean, container.
As one might predict with a program like this the biggest obstacle has been accountability but the program has been greeted with enthusiasm by the campus community and most people are excited to use them and learn about them. Because the system operates on an exchange basis there are not any amnesty issues, if students do not return their container they are not able to take another one without paying an additional $5.
An additional bonus to this program is that when the containers break or are no longer useable in the future, they are made out of recyclable plastic and can be recycled.