Reusable Containers in Dining HallsProject Size: Large, >$1,000
Estimated Amount to be requested from the CSF: $40,000
Letter of Intent:
Our project intends to bring reusable to go containers to dining halls across campus at UW Seattle. This project is being headed by students and leaders of SEED, with support from professional staff. To begin, we would like to use the grant money to start a pilot program to introduce the idea at a smaller scale in only one dining hall in autumn quarter of 2019. This provides an opportunity to see the potential benefits and problems to overcome and give us a good start for expansion into a more comprehensive system.
University of Washington prides themself on being a leader in sustainability. As SEED, we feel that one of the next steps to move forward in sustainability is introducing reusable rather than compostable containers in our dining halls. As of now, with over 45,000 students plus staff, we are creating enormous amounts of waste with to-go containers. Even though the containers are compostable, the sheer amount of compost can be hard to manage. In addition, 50% of the garbage in HFS housing is compostable material according to the 2018 Waste Characterization Study, and one can assume dining has similar levels of contamination. The large amount of contamination in garbage creates two problems. First, it increases the price HFS has to pay to remove all student waste, because compost and recycling do not have a cost attached for removal, while transport to a landfill costs the school. Second, disposable products use up energy and resources, and, if they are not disposed of properly, there is no benefit of seeing them turned into a new product after use. Instead, they only contribute to a growing landfill. The best option is to attempt to reduce this waste before it enters the waste stream, and to do so, washable, reusable containers should be offered as another alternative to go container. Other universities have successfully created a system for reusable containers in their dining halls, including Washington State University, UC Merced, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
The containers we would like to use come from a company called Ozzi. The containers are already designed and the process for getting containers distributed is established, there is minimal work for the university in order to start the program on campus. The Ozzi system works in the following way: a student pays a small fee (in the range of $2 to $5) and receives a clean container. The student then uses the container to store and eat food. When the student is finished, they place the container in the Ozzi machine so the barcode can be scanned. The container is deposited into the machine and the student is given a token. This token can be used by the student to receive another to-go container. Thus, the student only has to pay one time for unlimited access to containers throughout the year. When the containers are deposited, HFS staff take them back to clean them along with the rest of the cutlery and dishes. We would purchase the following products: two (2) Ozzi machines in Center Table, 2,000 - 3,000 containers (these can be in a wide variety of formats - the pilot program would include the standard, single-entree clamshell), 2,000 tokens, 10 boxes of liner bags, 4 OZZI carts (used to transport the used containers). This will cost approximately $40,000. We hope to purchase the equipment and have staff trained so we can begin the program at the start of autumn quarter 2019.
The idea for this project was initiated by members of SEED and is being lead by Luke Schefke, Director of Communications, and supported by the rest of the executive board. They saw this as a way to reduce waste produced on campus and reduce UW’s contribution to emissions. We have already gained strong support from our partners in HFS, including Clive Pursehouse, Torin Munro, and the rest of the Sustainability Committeewho are willing to assist and direct SEED in our efforts as we work towards implementing this system. SEED will also have a large influence in the education of introducing this system, with plans to create posters, have an event with tabling and demonstrations in the dining hall, and have members stationed by the machines to explain the program.
We are applying for a CSF grant because HFS, our community partner, has a mostly predetermined budget. With funding from a grant, this would allow us to see how a system such as this would function, so HFS feels secure in taking a larger financial commitment in the future. The amount that we are requesting would cover the price of the machines, containers, tokens, liner bags, and carts. It would not cover any maintenance or utilities costs, but this is not expected to be significant and can be covered through other means (SEED funds of HFS rebudgeting). By providing this grant, the Campus Sustainability Fund can support a program that improves sustainability across UW and help create a sustainable habits in students for years to come.