Environmentality: An alternative to disposable to-go containers in dining halls

The Ozzi, a vending machine that dispenses reusable to-go containers, shows promise in minimizing waste

While food waste in dining halls have garnered much attention on campus, a different kind of waste begs addressing as well: the waste of to-go containers. As we wait on long lines for food pretty much everywhere on campus, we’re most likely thinking about our meals, not the containers we put them in. However, the current containers in dining halls are contributing to a huge waste problem that we need to consider in order to make this campus more sustainable.

Places like the Pub and Kissam don’t offer anything other than disposable containers, and Rand boasts the title of using the most disposable containers of any dining hall on campus. Rand and the Pub annually use a total of 1,813,500 disposable containers and plasticware, while Kissam comes in second with 609,675. The to-go containers create a large amount of waste that could be completely eliminated with the help of the Ozzi.

The Ozzi is a vending machine that dispenses reusable to-go containers. A student scans their card and is given a to-go container that they are able to return at their convenience. Staff will then wash, sterilize and reuse. Each student is given on Ozzi credit or “token.” With one credit, they can receive a to-go container, and, once they return the container, they are given their credit back in exchange.

The Vanderbilt Green Fund offers $150,000 to implement student ideas regarding sustainability. This money could be used to implement machines in both Kissam and Rand for the price of $34,370. Although this sounds expensive, projected payback for Kissam would be 13 months, while for Rand, it would be a rapid three to four months. There would also be an additional cost of $19,500 for hiring extra staff for washing these containers. However, the return on this investment financially is equally impressive in addition to creating jobs.

Implementing the Ozzi would garner a net annual saving of $170,500. Also, it would eliminate the use of 2,423,175 disposable containers and plasticware each year, reducing Vanderbilt’s waste a great deal. A proposal has been made to Vanderbilt Green Fund, potentially making Ozzi a vital part of the Vanderbilt experience next year.