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Reusable Containers Return To Penn State’s Dining Halls Through New ‘PSreUse’ Program

Following the retirement of Penn State’s Green2Go program nearly one year ago, reusable containers are on their way back to the university’s dining halls.

Through a new program, dubbed “PSreUse,” Penn State is reintroducing reusable takeout containers. The revamped initiative will use the same plastic and green takeout containers combined with “an updated logistical flow” to make it more convenient and accessible.

PSreUse’s most significant difference is that it’s free to use upon return, meaning students no longer need to pay $5 deposits to opt into using it. However, students could need to pay damage fees if they have unreturned containers at the end of a semester.

In essence, the process for PSreUse’s reusable container program works much like Green2Go’s did. Dining hall guests can ask for a reusable container at any buffet’s cashier station with the swipe of their ID. Once they’ve finished their meal, takeout containers can be returned to any dining hall’s cashier stations, including ones in convenience stores.

Boxes don’t need to be returned to the same location from which they were checked out. Theoretically, for example, you could enjoy a meal at Findlay Commons and return the box to West’s Waring Commons the next day on your way to Willard for class.

Reusable takeout boxes need to be free from “large food particles,” but you don’t need to rinse or clean them completely. The cycle helps Residential Dining maintain a clean supply of boxes to give program-using students every day.

According to Food Services sustainability coordinator Anna Sostarecz, Penn State is working on barcoding containers to track them individually, too. Once the system is in place and online, specific containers could be tied to a student’s ID, allowing returns without swiping ID cards.

Sostarecz says the barcode system being developed would give Penn State more specific data on containers, including how long they’ve been checked out. She said upgraded barcoding would help her staff adjust the program to better meet students’ usage and container lifecycles.

As always, Penn State’s reusable container program hopes to cut down on unnecessary waste across campus.

“The program will enable sustainable choices for students in the dining halls, which can translate into large institutional strides in sustainability,” Sostarecz said. “In a typical year, we use about 500,000 styrofoam containers. Each reusable container can be used and washed up to 1,000 times; that can replace a lot of styrofoam! Ideally, with enough student support and participation in the program, we can move toward eliminating single-use packaging options that contaminate recycling streams and crowd the landfill.”

Currently, PSreUse is available only at Findlay Commons in East and at Port Sky Cafe at Penn State Altoona. Penn State plans on expanding it to all on-campus dining halls this fall.

Additionally, the program is available only in person. It’s not incorporated into the Penn State Eats mobile app, although Penn State said it hopes to offer that feature in the future. PSreUse’s implementation at retail spots like salad bars and pasta stations could be coming soon, too.

Anyone with a valid Penn State ID can use the PSreUse program. It accepts payments through campus and commuter meal plans or through LionCash.

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About the Author

Matt DiSanto

By day, Matt is a senior majoring in journalism. By night, he's Onward State's managing editor. He's a huge Philadelphia sports fan, fantasy football lover, and washed-up drummer hailing from Collegeville, Pa. The quickest way to his heart is Margherita pizza and "Arrested Development" quotes. Follow him on Twitter @mattdisanto_ if you hate yourself or email Matt at [email protected] if you hate him.

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