Sodexo’s WasteWatch REUSE reusable container program reduces waste and helps us achieve our Better Tomorrow 2025 commitments by replacing single-use disposable take-out containers with reusable containers. Each year, Sodexo managers are invited to WasteWatch REUSE training webinars, where they are trained on program best practices and can connect with our reusable container supplier partners, G.E.T., OZZI and Whirley Drink Works. All Sodexo WasteWatch REUSE programs include the following components to ensure safety standards and successful utilization of the program: 1) Local health department program approval, 2) Use of only Sodexo-approved meal takeout containers, 3) Follow approved distribution process for the containers, 4) Communicate the program using marketing materials and in partnership with students, 5) Staff training for implementing and running the program and 6) Tracking of participation and waste avoidance.
The Covid-19 pandemic has raised safety concerns for using reusable containers, and many of our partner campuses have consequently opted to halt these programs. During this crisis, there has also been a huge demand increase for disposable to-go materials, causing supply shortages. Going into the new school year, Sodexo is reemphasizing the safety and resiliency of our WasteWatch REUSE reusable container program. Through our teams continued commitment to proper sanitization of the reusable containers, which are run through dish machines, the reusable containers are safe for use and may offer a more reliable way to expand to-go service.
University Dining Services at the University of Vermont, managed by Sodexo, provides an excellent case-study for WasteWatch REUSE. UVM launched their Eco-Ware Reusable Take-Out Container Program in the start of the Spring 2011 semester at two retail restaurant locations on campus: University Marché and Brennan’s, and has expanded to almost all locations on campus, including unlimited dining. From November 2020 – February 2020, students took 2,432 meals to-go using reusable containers.
2009-2010 pilot series at one retail location, University Marché, led the way for the successful growth of the program. The pilots really took off through the development of a partnership with an Honor College course and UVM’s GreenHouse Community, that brought in students to help customize the program for UVM. Issues addressed during the pilot phase included optimizing the correct container structure (the program includes both bowl and box container options), accountability for returning containers through a token exchange system (using a custom-made cow tag, just like those used in dairy farms, that is swapped at the register for an EcoWare container) and participation which was incentivized by expanding the program to an additional campus dining location and by finessing the reusable container discount(started at five cents, is now twenty-five cents).
The program was initially designed to be self-sustaining and as an opt-in program, where students could buy a container membership for $7.50. $7.50 covers the cost of the ﬁrst container, the exchange container, the cow tag used for the exchange and some additional dishwasher supplies/labor costs of cleaning the containers. As the program took off, it became part of Sodexo’s service, and all first-time (including international and transfer students) were automatically enrolled in the program for free. If students lose their container/cow tag exchange token and want to enter back into the program, they are charged $7.50 to reenter. Sodexo has purchased $46,000 worth of containers over the lifetime of the program. Anticipated food cost impacts are mitigated by prohibiting carry-out during dinner (after 4:15pm).
All Sodexo employees are trained on waste eliminating best practices, and cashier attendants at participating dining locations are provided a specific Ecoware Cashier Guide to ensure the program is effectively communicated and easy for students and Sodexo staff to navigate.
Every year the program is launched through collaboration with students to encourage peer-to-peer marketing. For the first two weeks of each semester, UVM EcoReps swipe students into the program for the first time (after the first swipe, they use a cow-tag), and students are provided an FAQ on the EcoWare program. Throughout the school year, ads run on our digital screens, and EcoReps continue campaigns encouraging student participation. Check-out the EcoReps video showcasing how students are stomping out disposable containers and Bring It Back video encouraging students to return the containers.