A biweekly publication for faculty and staff
April 12, 2013

Recycling System Helps To-go Diners Reduce Waste

August 29, 2012

Campus diners who take out their meals are helping save the environment one plate at a time.

UC Merced is the first campus west of the Mississippi to use the new OZZI container-recycling system. People will see the new container-collecting machine in the dining commons.

Last year, the campus went through about a quarter million take-out containers, including the three-compartment Blue Plate containers, disposable salad bowls, and the paper carriers that hold burgers and fries, chicken strips and other items.

Soon, the only option for people who want take-out from the dining hall will be the new green containers that are returned at the OZZI machine.

The reuse program is for anyone who buys a meal at the dining commons with the intent of taking it outside the dining area.

Here's how the program works: The first time you buy a to-go dish, you pay $5 for the green plastic container the food comes in. You return the used container, and you get either a token for the next one, or a credit on your meal plan. At the end of the year, if you have a token or credit left, you can get your last meal, turn in your token or swipe your card, and you'll get that initial $5 credited back to your meal plan.

If you get that final credit, the program ends up not costing you anything, saving quite a lot of money compared to paying the 50-cents-per-meal take-out surcharge the dining commons was charging to cover the cost of compostable take-out containers.

UC Merced is also the first campus to integrate the machines with meal-plan cards, said Jason Souza, director of dining services and the CatCard.

Five other schools, all on the East Coast, also have 12 OZZI machines collectively between them.

The green containers and the bar codes on the bottom of each will last for about 200 washings before they finally go to be recycled again. They must be sanitized between uses by Dining Services.

Over the next couple of months, two or three more OZZI machines will be installed, one in the residence halls and one more in the dining commons, and, likely, one in the north section of campus near the library, to make them convenient for everyone.

The goal is the drastic reduction or elimination of disposable containers to help meet the campus's Zero Net Waste pledge.