Foam replaced by to-go containers

Each semester, the UH main campus disposes of about 90 thousand Styrofoam containers, according to UH Dining Services.

As part of the commitment to protect the environment and go green, UH Dining Services are offering reusable ‘to go’ food containers in all the UH dining halls.

“Through our Green Thread environmental stewardship platform, we are continuing to look for ways to reduce our environmental impact,” UH Dining Services Resident District Manager Tony Urso said.  “The reusable to-go container program is another initiative in our ongoing plan to strive toward zero waste and support the sustainability goals of the University of Houston.”

When a patron requests a to-go container, UH Dining will give out a reusable food container. After use, the patron would clean the container and return it to any of the six C-store locations or dining halls on campus.

Aramark, the contractor with UH Dining has started similar reusable container programs at Baylor University, University of Florida, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Peace College and Salem College, according to a recent Aramark press release.

“Student feedback from the pilot program was very positive,” Senior Vice President Aramark Higher Education, Michael Leone said. “Everyone on campus immediately understood the reduction in landfill waste when compared with a traditional, disposable container. Our program also commits to recycling these reusable products at the end of their useful life.”

Styrofoam is not exactly a friend to mother earth. It’s a styrene petroleum-based plastic infused with 95 to 97 percent air.

The Environmental Protection Agency and the International Agency for Research on Cancer identified styrene as a carcinogen.

The Environmental Protection Agency announced in a 1986 report that polystyrene, which goes into making of Styrofoam, is the 5th largest source of hazardous waste.  Styrofoam, and other types of plastic particles are often found in wild animals as undigested materials in their gastrointestinal systems.  Wild animals are also exposed to Styrofoam in the leakage from landfills into the underground water systems.

“By 1986, styrene was found in 100 percent of all samples of human fat tissue taken as part of an EPA Human Tissue Survey,” Green Home’s Jennifer Quintana wrote on their Web site. “Researchers found that Styrofoam cups lose weight when in use, meaning that styrene is oozing into the foods and drinks we consume. It then ends up stored in our fatty tissue, where it can build up to levels that can cause fatigue, nervousness, difficulty sleeping, blood abnormalities and even carcinogenic effects.”

Styrofoam is so toxic that Taiwan, Portland, OR, and Orange County, CA ban the distribution and usage of Styrofoam products.

UH Dining Services is taking initiatives to help further the effort to protect the environment by switching to reusable containers.

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