Styrofoam Free Food Service

By Melanie Stewart

A few years ago, UNMC/Nebraska Medicine followed UNL’s resolution to become Styrofoam/polystyrene free in food service.  Foam is cheap to produce/purchase and an effective insulator, which is why it gets used frequently.  However, it contains hazardous chemicals that can cause cancer and other maladies to the end user, as well those individuals involved in production.  These chemicals are also exhausted into the atmosphere and make foam difficult to break down in a natural environment, leading to more litter and contamination.

I’m sure you’re aware that Sodexo stopped using foam clamshells some time ago and phased out foam plates as well.  After input from you a second, compostable clamshell is now being used in 42nd/Dewey food service locations.

After those changes were made, the most frequently requested change was the removal of foam cups from floor stock.  Department budgets are set for the fiscal year so we waited at Nebraska Medicine, but that time is now and floor stock will be foam free (please be patient, the vendor needs time to scale up to our volume)!

To further reduce waste, reusable plates are being offered in the Nebraska Café for dine-in customers, and they are washed in the new, water-efficient dishwasher that was installed a little over a year ago.

Sodexo has been a great partner as we strive to meet our waste goals and have made changes that you may not have noticed.  Did you know they:

  • Have bio-plastic cups that are compostable?
  • Cater food in recycled content boxes that are still recyclable?
  • Cater and provide “grab and go” food items in recyclable (plastic) packaging?
  • Provide vegetarian/vegan options at every meal.
  • Have recycling bins at all locations, and recycle items on the tray return in Nebraska Café?
  • Monitor sales which keep the items you want to use in stock, but also eliminates items you don’t want, which reduces waste, and in our case many glass bottles, as well.

All of these changes are helping us to meet our waste goal, but we still need your help.  Please:

  • Dump unconsumed food/liquid out of your container, recycle everything possible.
  • Use plates when dining in.
  • “Sort to save” when in Nebraska Café, don’t combine your waste before placing it on the tray return.
  • Consume what you buy, take leftovers home.
  • Choose fountain drinks over bottles when buying beverages.

Next up: composting both food prep and post-consumer food waste, and exploring reusable to-go clamshells.

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