ASHLAND, OHIO — Ashland University will begin using reusable takeout containers from G.E.T. Enterprises Inc. this fall, joining hundreds of colleges and business who take part in G.E.T.'s Eco-Takeout program.
Students can purchase the polypropylene containers for the cost of a meal — equivalent to about $6.50 — when buying food to-go on campus. After eating, students will rinse out the containers and return them to receptacles on campus.
The containers are washed and sanitized before being put back into circulation. The next time students purchase a to-go meal, they just pick up another container and the cycle continues, said Matt Portner, director of auxiliary services at Ashland, a private midsized university in Ohio.
Faculty and staff can also participate in the program, he said.
Several hundred universities and corporate campuses in the U.S. use the Eco-Takeout program, said Travis McCarroll, a G.E.T. marketing spokesman.
The program was conceived by a college student who obtained a grant, created the program and pitched the idea to G.E.T. The company jumped on board in 2008 or '09 and it's taken off from there, McCarroll said.
Interest in the program is growing beyond universities. Food trucks in downtown Portland, Ore., have started using the containers as well, he said.
According to G.E.T., the Eco-Takeout containers are commercial dishwasher and microwave safe. They're made with break-resistant, recyclable PP and have a life expectancy of 1-2 years or 500 to 700 uses.
After 30 uses, the containers break even in price with disposable containers, according to G.E.T.
Ashland is the first business or university in Ohio to implement the Eco-Takeout program. The university had to petition the state to use reusable containers, which were not authorized under Ohio's food safety code, Portner said.
Recent changes to the code will allow universities to offer reusable containers starting next year. "We'd like to think we helped push that along," he said.
The university wanted to cut down on the amount of polystyrene containers it threw away. One take-out location on campus went through about 17,000 PS containers annually, Portner said.
"It was kind of disheartening to see all these Styrofoam containers in the dumpster because you knew they were going to be there forever," he said.
The university will still offer PS containers, but will likely send at least 50 percent fewer containers to the landfill, Portner said, adding that it is too early to know for sure.
The reusable containers might require a little extra work for students, but "I think everyone wants to do the right thing and help the environment" and save it for the next generation, he said.
In addition to reusable containers, Houston-based G.E.T. manufactures commercial food-service products from melamine and other alternative plastic materials. The company sells its products wholesale to businesses like commercial caterers, cruise lines, restaurants, universities, health-care facilities and supermarkets.