Dining Services to provide reusable bag for dining to UConn Storrs students

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Dining services will replace paper bags with more eco-friendly, reusable ones starting September 11th, 2020. Photo by Polina Tankilevitch from Pexels.

Dennis Pierce, executive director of dining services, spoke about the new, reusable bags that will be provided to University of Connecticut students in place of the paper bags that have been offered.  

Pierce said that the primary factor driving this change was the number of bags and paper products used every day. He estimated that an average of 5,555 meals is taken out by students every day.  

“The magnitude of it all is … that yesterday, when you total up all of our residential areas, we had an average of 5,555 meals, so that literally means that each one of those individuals had a bag, had a takeout container, had silverware, I’m assuming they had cups for beverages, so that’s just one day,” Pierce said.  

Dining services has spent much time exploring other options to deal with this challenge, Pierce said. Ultimately, they decided on a reusable bag that will be distributed to students on Friday, Sept 11.  

“We’re dealing with all these paper bags and we’re going, ‘There’s got to be a better way,’ and as we researched we found this reusable bag that, this Friday, we’re going to hand out to all of the students as they come into the dining facilities, and we will continue to hand them out,” Pierce said.  

To manage this, dining services worked with the one card office to establish a system to track who had received their bag. This system will keep a record of every student who has received their reusable bag.  

“How this thing works is that the One Card Office sets up this system… We swipe the person in first of all, and then we take their card, and then we swipe them in and put a code into the machine, and then we give them a bag,” Pierce said. “That shows us that that individual received a bag.”  

Pierce had two requests for the student body, participation and active use. He stressed that the bag would be easy to carry with you throughout the day.  

“I’d like to encourage students to one, participate, and two, bring the bag back,” Pierce said. “It’s that kind of material that will fold up really, really small, so it won’t take up a lot of space in a backpack or in a pocket.”  

Despite the step towards the sole use of reusable bags, Pierce said that students who forget their bag will be able to request a plastic bag for use. While the option is available, Pierce hopes that students will primarily use the reusable bag provided.  

“What’s going to happen when a student says, ‘Oh I forgot my bag, I don’t have my bag?’ We do have a recyclable, plastic bag that’s eco-friendly that we’ll have in lieu of that paper bag that we’re using now, but we’re hoping that people don’t go that route because it is a plastic bag and that they do use the one that we’re issuing this Friday,” Pierce said.  

Pierce is hopeful that this alleviates some of the issues in place. He said that dining services will keep an eye on the effectiveness of the reusable bags and the reaction to them.  

“It’s a step in the right direction, let’s see how it works, you know,” Pierce said. “We have thousands, so we should be all set, let’s hope.’  

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