Every day, hundreds of students, faculty and staff members eat lunch at the Minnesota Marketplace at Coffman Union. As they choose their food, nearly everyone picks up some plastic utensils, disposable plates, boxes for their pizza or Styrofoam cups. And when lunch is finished, all of this is thrown in the trash.
This presents an opportunity to cut down on the waste we produce every day. What are a few spoons or pizza boxes in the garbage? Individually, not much. But when hundreds of people eat at the Minnesota Marketplace every day, this quickly adds up to quite a bit of waste through the course of the academic year.
There are particular disposable products that add unnecessary amounts of waste. Styrofoam cups take significantly longer to biodegrade than paper products do. Every person who grabs one slice of pizza takes a cardboard box to carry it to their table in. Also, the pizza boxes, napkins and other paper goods are recyclable goods that could easily be tossed in a separate container if one was made visibly available.
There is a better option. The Minnesota Marketplace already has dishwashing equipment that is used to wash the lunch trays and preparation utensils. But this is as far as dishwashing goes. Water is already being used to wash the trays we stack our future trash on, why not buy reusable, heavy-duty plastic or ceramic dishware and metal silverware, and wash that too?
Not only would this alternative be better for the environment, but it would also cut down on the costs of buying endless amounts of disposable plates and utensils. Just as waste grows for every plate, box and fork we throw away, so does the cost of replacing them for the next day.
Additionally, washing reusable utensils and plates could create more on-campus jobs. The money saved from not using disposable items could be funneled back into paying a dishwasher’s wage.
It is understandable that some people use the Minnesota Marketplace as a quick stop on the way to class or work and need disposable containers to take their food with them. But would it be that difficult to give customers the choice?