Campus Environment Opinion OPINION: Reusable containers at dining halls have changed the game By Tim Zelina Posted on February 13, 2018 6 min read 0 0 1,131 Opinion writer Tim Zelina will take his food to-go. But he hopes Ohio U’s reusable containers stay. Ohio University launched a pilot program in January designed to test the efficiency of reusable ‘to-go’ boxes at campus dining halls. Three hundred students, including the author of this piece, were allowed to sign up as testers for to-go boxes. Each tester received a plastic to-go box that can be used to take food out of the dining hall. The box can then be returned, dirty or clean, for a either a fresh box or a voucher for another box with the next meal swipe. To put it simply, this program is fantastic and absolutely must be continued. Barring environmental concerns, the box is just so convenient. It can even be latched shut and put into a bag! Unless one fills their box with a liquid, they no longer have to carry the box upright out of fear that it will open up and spill everywhere. When taking a box to the library or to the markets, it is much more convenient to be able to just latch the box shut and throw it in a bookbag than to have to hold it for the entire trek. While the items inside tend to become very intimate with each other, they remain inside the box, keeping the student’s books and laptop free of spillage. Furthermore, the box has much more integrity than the compostable ones. Filling your box with pasta — or anything with a sauce — was always a dangerous game with the old boxes, as the containers weren’t the most structurally efficient. The reusable boxes are made of plastic and simply hold together much better. Load up on that pasta sauce! The box may have a slightly shorter lid than the compostable ones, but it still holds a perfect amount of food. The issue is, if one were to get some kind of sandwich or burger, the box tends to smoosh the top piece of bread. However, this is an acceptable price to pay for the convenience of the latch! Compostable food boxes are not much harm as garbage, but they require loads of energy to constantly create and stock. These plastic containers will likely last years before degradation requires disposal. The one worrying element is that the dining halls wash these boxes and they tend to use enormous amounts of water and energy to clean dirty items. The people behind this program have not made clear whether a study has been completed comparing the energy wasted in the process of creating and consuming compostable boxes to the energy wasted in creating and washing reusable boxes. This omission throws environmental concerns into question. One would tend to err on the side that the reusable ones are less wasteful than the compostable ones, but without solid proof it is impossible to make that judgement. Regardless of the environmental legitimacy of this program, Culinary Services should continue this program out of sheer virtue of the convenience of the boxes. Students have long hoped for compostable boxes that are as strongly constructed and tightly latched as the disposable ones are now. The convenience of the latch and build quality of the reusable box cannot be stated enough. Any student who has struggled with the flimsiness of the old containers will love the reusable box and should strongly consider signing up to receive one for next semester.