Dining services seeks to rejuvenate recyclable to-go boxes for students

By Kara Blomquist

Paper or plastic? That is the choice facing to-go diners at Baylor’s residential dining halls.

Students will continue to have these options next fall. Reusable plastic containers will be offered in fall 2013 despite students’ lack of interest in the program, said Brett Perlowski, director of dining services. Baylor Dining Services officials hope to create more interest in the program next year, he said.

“Our intent will be to try to rev it up again in the fall and give it another whirl,” Perlowski said. “It’s still a good program.”

Jessica Gallippo, marketing manager for Baylor Dining Services, said the reusable containers will be more prominently displayed in the dining halls this fall.

“We’ll definitely try to make a more visual impact and try to get the students more energized about the program,” she said. The reusable takeout containers were first introduced in fall 2008. Perlowski said these plastic to-go boxes had more of a presence in the dining halls then.

“We would have kind of a pyramid of them in the front of the locations, just to kind of draw interest to it,” he said. “Those are things that we’re talking about, how to kind of relaunch it.” Students prefer the paper containers over the reusable to-go boxes, Perlowski said. The main issue with the reusable takeout containers is that people have to return the takeout boxes to the dining hall in order to get another container, he said. Students must rinse out the to-go box and bring it back to the dining hall. This could be inconvenient for some people. The dining halls then wash these plastic containers before they can be used again.

Some campuses have drop off locations for the to-go containers that allow students to turn in their takeout boxes in areas besides the dining halls, he said. While nothing has been decided, this could be in the future for Baylor’s dining program, Perlowski said.

“There’s some ways that we may be able to do a better job in making it more convenient to students and staff,” he said.

Returning the plastic to-go boxes seems to be a problem for the Baylor community, Gallippo said. Baylor Dining Services bought 1,800 additional reusable containers in the summer of 2012. There are barely any of these containers left in the dining halls, she said. This summer Baylor Dining Services will evaluate how many additional reusable to-go boxes they will purchase for the upcoming school year. Real Food on Campus at Memorial didn’t have any of these to-go boxes for over one month, said Jessica Castillo, a cashier at the dining hall. A few reusable containers were returned to the dining hall Monday afternoon. Castillo said during one lunch period, from 10:45 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., she hands out about 600 paper to-go containers and about five reusable containers.

This high use of paper containers is not unique to Memorial. Gallippo said the residential dining halls use about 16,600 paper containers each week. Gallippo said the decreased use of the reusable to-go boxes is due in part to the availability of paper containers, which replaced Styrofoam containers beginning in fall 2012. Students think that the paper containers are eco-friendly, she said.

“We’re really seeing that, in their minds, we’ve become sustainable by taking away the Styrofoam,” she said. Perlowski said he agrees with this assessment. “My perception on it is that the sugarcane killed the plastic containers,” he said.

It is cheaper for Baylor Dining Services if students use the reusable containers instead of the paper sugarcane containers, Perlowski said. From a cost standpoint, he said he wants students to use the reusable takeout boxes. Gallippo said she hopes to generate more interest in the reusable containers in the upcoming fall. The resuable takeout boxes may be displayed on top of the cashier counters to help increase the use of these containers, she said.

“If we could get the reusable container back on the map, then it’s a win-win for everybody,” she said.