Students at UAA go from disposable to reusable with a new recycling program

ANCHORAGE (KTUU) Picture being a college student, hitting the dining hall, grabbing a disposable tray, you eat and then toss it in the trash. Over time that waste adds up, but a new revolutionary system is helping change the way students dine at the University of Alaska Anchorage.

A UAA student filling a reusable container for breakfast as part of a new system of sustainability.

David Weaver is the Director of University Housing, Dining and Conference Services at UAA. He showed Channel 2's Ariane Aramburo around its main dining facility, saying the university had about 600 residential students this semester.

While the facility has undergone some renovations, so has the way students eat. Weaver showed how reusable containers they call the "clamshell" are helping cut costs and waste. The idea started 4 years ago after he was approached by a student that wanted to create something sustainable.

"He was very interested in this project because it would eliminate tons, literally tons of single use food containers," said Weaver.

Once the containers have been used, they go into a big black machine called Ozzi. It scans the bottom of the empty container, drops into a waste bag and a token is dispensed to use again.

"Students have totally bought into it, the fact that 25,000 unique times they were used in 2018 is pretty remarkable," said Weaver.

Students like Madeline Hogard and Joey Sweet said it's the small changes now that will make the biggest difference in the future.

"With the climate crisis that we're currently in, it's really important that we do make these changes now, big or small," said Hogard.

"So there really is no pun intended an energy out there for people on an individual and collective basis to try and take action as it relates to climate change," added Sweet.

The containers can be used 300 to 500 times before they have to be put in the landfill. In 2017, the containers were used 11,000 times. In 2018, that number more than doubled to 25,000.

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