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The Carletonian

Sayles rolls out resuable plates and bowls

<ir="ltr" id="docs-internal-guid-8de69274-3092-8238-c2de-a32cfccb46b5">In an effort to reduce campus waste, Bon Appétit and SOPE (Students Organized for the Protection of the Environment) have collaborated to implement a new program of reusable plates and bowls in Sayles Cafe.

When students make an order “for here,” they will receive their food on a washable plate, rather than the compostable paper plates. The compostable clamshells, or to-go containers, will remain for students who make orders “to-go.”

Eric Tallman, ’17 and Co-President of SOPE, said that last spring, SOPE approached Bon Appétit and proposed a program of reusable clamshells in Sayles. “It would be an opt-in program, and it would be tied into your OneCard to make sure there’s accountability. Bon App was interested in the idea, but decided that rather than reusable clamshells, we would start with reusable plates,” he said.

“There are Bon Appétit accounts that have the reusable clamshell, but none of them have been widely successful,” said Dining Services Manager, Katie McKenna. “Either the clamshells disappear, or the program for giving the clamshells back is cumbersome and the students end up not wanting to use it. Instead, I suggested to start with baby steps by getting rid of the plates in Sayles Cafe.”

According to McKenna, many students who do not take their food out of Sayles still use the clamshell containers. “Even though they’re compostable, it’s a large item and adds a lot to overall waste. Bon Appétit and the college have been working together to reduce waste in multiple places,” she said.

Although the Sayles containers have been revamped to be almost entirely compostable, SOPE sought to further eliminate wasteon campus by getting rid of the compostable plates.

“Students go through so many compostable plates and clamshells every day in Sayles, adding up to nearly 6,500 plates per week. Yes, compost is better than landfill, but that’s contributing to a lot of waste, and a lot of what’s going into compost. Even better is having reusable things,” said Tallman.

To accommodate the new plates and bowls, McKenna said that “we are trying to re-sign the bus-tub area so that people can return the plates.

“The cashiers are going to be very vigilant about saying ‘would you like to stay or go?,’ and if it’s for here, it’ll be served on the reusable plates instead of the take-out clamshells.”

The plates are blue and black and made of the same durable, break-resistant material as the dining hall plates, according to McKenna. Because Sayles lacks the space for a dish washer, the plates will be taken to Burton’s facilities to be washed and then brought back up to Sayles.

McKenna said that Bon Appétit funded the 400 new plates, which were debuted on Monday, Oct. 31.

Julia Gross ’18 said that she appreciated the new plates and that she “really did like the reusable bowl. It’s really easy to use them and then just bring them back. I also felt better about not throwing plates away.”

Sayles worker Phoebe Jean Wilmot, who has worked in Sayles for 21 years, said the plates have been successful thus far, and the workers have not experienced any problems.

“So far, so good,” she said. “I just hope students remember to not throw away the plates because sometimes I find forks in the trash. They can think about it like Sayles is their second home.”

She did note that there were still clamshell containers in the trashcans at Sayles, which indicates that students requested “to-go” containers when they remained in Sayles.

Five years ago, Sayles used reusable baskets to serve food, but according to Wilmot, students started stealing the baskets to use as shower caddies.

The legacy of the failed 2014 reusable cup program lingers, as both SOPE and Bon Appetit expressed concern that students would throw away the new Sayles plates or forget to return them.

Dan Bergeson, Carleton liaison to Bon Appétit, helped facilitate the reusable plate program, but said that he’s “hopeful that the reusable plates and bowls in Sayles will be more successful than the reusable cup program was. The key to success in any program like this that relies on voluntary cooperation is educational marketing. If students are made aware of the benefits of a successful outcome, which is reducing waste, and they see value in such an outcome, they may be more inclined to participate.”

McKenna stated that she is “very optimistic. I know that there are students that care about the environment, and they care about not adding to the waste flow, but there are a lot of people that don’t care. I hope that students don’t mind the extra steps to return the plates, so we can help reduce the waste on campus.”

Reusable clamshell containers, which was SOPE’s original proposal, are not on the horizon for now, according to McKenna.

Reusable clamshells cost about “eight dollars apiece, so if we buy them and use them, we need to get them back. We had a bad experience with the reusable cups and that really told us that the whole campus isn’t on board with reusables. So we’ll see how this goes.”

“We just need to make sure students follow through and don’t steal the plates and bowls,” said Tallman.

“If too many things get stolen, they’re going to have to go back to compostables. It’s important to us to be respectful and realize that we have an opportunity to cut down in waste here in a really easy way, but it requires all of us to do that,” Tallman said.

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