Beginning fall quarter, all residential campus dining locations will be switching to reusable plates, bowls and silverware, a change that will affect approximately 15,000 meals each day when school is in session.
Diners will be able to take the dishware back to their rooms or wherever else they are going on campus to eat their meals. Reusables must be returned to a campus dining location.
“I think we all understand that single-use disposables are not sustainable in the long run, and my hope is that students, staff and faculty will do their part by returning these for reuse to make the system work,” said Tom Driscoll, director of dining services.
The decision to move to reusables came about after changes to the local composting system. The company that handles compost has stopped accepting napkins, wood and paper products, and plant-based plasticware, requiring the UO to either make a change or add all that waste to the landfill.
In addition, Eugene passed an ordinance requiring that disposable plastic items such as straws and utensils only be provided upon request. Diners will still be able to request single-use items if they prefer them.
“Reusable dishware and silverware are the most sustainable solutions,” said Steve Mital, director of the UO’s Office of Sustainability. “As long as they actually get collected, washed and reused multiple times each, they are even more sustainable than compostable or recyclable items.”
The program is not without risks, however. If students and others do not return their reusable items or, worse, throw them away, they will increase waste in the landfill and also cost the UO — and by extension the students — more money than single-use items.
However, if people return reusables the community will save money and make a significant dent in the amount of trash sent to the landfill.
As Driscoll explained, “Our slogan is ‘We're bringing it back!’ and there is no place better than the University of Oregon to engage end users in being part of the solution.”