Have you ever entered a food service setting and asked for your order “to go?” Most likely you were supplied with a foam, polystyrene container. Perhaps as you loaded your food into the container there was a moment of guilt, as you reflected on the end destination of that container.
Each year millions of hinged lid, disposable containers end up in the landfill. These containers take centuries to decompose, not to mention the entire lifecycle of each unit (raw material extraction, production, transportation). Unfortunately these disposable containers are just part of a much larger problem: a society and economy that is built on consuming and producing waste.
Fortunately there is a solution, at least to the issue of disposable containers. The Eco-Clamshell container is a hinged lid unit, made from durable plastic material that can be reused! Individuals at colleges and universities or corporations can check out these containers, consume their food outside of the cafeteria, and then return the Eco-Clamshell to be washed and sanitized. The Eco-Clamshell operates much like a plate for use in the cafeteria, however its design allows one to take food to go.
Since the spring of 2008, Eckerd College has been utilizing an innovative to-go container called the Eco-Clamshell. Instead of using disposable to-go containers, students have the option of taking their food to go in a reusable container. At present 375 students are involved in the program. This represents 37% of students on the meal plan!
An important part of the program is accounting for containers. Students either swipe their ID card or exchange a dirty container for a clean one. This ensures the containers don’t disappear over time.
Currently this program is in place at colleges, universities, and institutions across the country. Examples include Knox College in Illinois, University of Tennessee at Martin, Westminister Retirement Center in Florida, Macalester College in Minnesota, and the University of Florida. Participants take their food to go in the reusable container and then conveniently return the container to be washed before receiving a clean unit. This system not only benefits the environment directly through waste reduction, but also teaches individuals a new way of thinking; namely that reuse can be just as convenient as disposal.
The program was made possible by a grant from the Environmental Research and Education Foundation in July of 2007. This grant funded the construction of a prototype, by GET Enterprises, and on-going research and support. The idea itself was derived from an environmental audit that explored disposable containers at Eckerd College.
As we continue forward as a society we should take time to think about our daily habitats and dream up new solutions. We haven’t always been a waste-centric society. This development is relatively new. This means the solutions are already there, they just need to be molded to fit the needs of our current day and age.
How does it work?
Pay a one-time fee of $5 to join the Lovebirds Café® Green Club! Once you sign-up you will receive your Green Club card or Eco-Takeout™ container, depending on your dining needs (eating in or to-go). Each time you visit Lovebirds Café® the card or container can be exchanged for a clean Eco-Takeout™ container. The Green Club Card reserves your place in the system, should you return a dirty container but not take food to-go.
The environmental advantage
The Eco-Takeouts™ not only reduce the amount of waste going to the landfill but minimize the environmental impact associated with the entire lifecycle (raw material extraction, production, and distribution). Through reuse, the Eco-Takeouts™ are produced less frequently, cutting down on all of these processes.
Frequently asked questions
Q: Why can’t I bring my own container into Lovebirds Café® instead of using the Eco-Takeouts™?
A: Health code regulations prohibit the use of personal containers in restaurant establishments. The Eco-Takeouts™ are FDA approved and cleaned in a high heat dishwasher to meet health code standards.
Q: Why the $5 fee?
A: The $5 fee creates a sense of responsibility among Eco-Takeout™ users. If the containers were handed out free of charge they could be lost or damaged, defeating the environmental purpose.
Q: What happens if I lose my Green Club Card or Eco-Takeout™?
A: If you lose either the card or the Eco-Takeout™ you will need to pay a $5 fee to join the program again.
Q: Do I have to pay the $5 fee and participate in the program?
A: This program is completely optional. The disposable containers will still be available for your convenience.
Q: What type of material are the Eco-Takeouts™ made out of and is it safe for human use?
A: The Eco-Takeouts™ are made from polypropylene (#5), a non-toxic, BPA free plastic. This material is dishwasher safe, microwavable, and can be used to contain both hot and cold foods safely. Although the Eco-Takeouts™ aren’t intended for disposal, they can be recycled at the end of their lifetime.
Are you interested in the Eco-Takeouts™ or have an application in mind?