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Tech cafeteria implements eco-friendly disposable dinnerware

March 8, 2016

On Feb. 17, Indiana Tech’s Sustainability Council, in partnership with AVI Tech Fresh, the on-campus food provider, announced it will begin using eco-friendly disposable dinnerware.

Now, disposable cutlery used in Tech dining areas is made from polylactic acid (PLA), also known as “corn plastic.” PLA is a resin made from corn, not oil, and it is completely compostable in commercial compost facilities. By comparison, the extraction and processing of petroleum to make traditional plastic cutlery releases greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. These processes also pose threats to nearby waterways and local air quality.

The new plates and bowls are made from bagasse. Bagasse is the fibrous matter that remains after sugarcane stalks are crushed to extract their juice. Bagasse products are made with less energy and water than their paper counterparts, and typically biodegrade in 30-90 days, depending on the conditions. Using bagasse dinnerware over the styrofoam and styrene products AVI is now phasing out can save 1.4 gallons of water per pound of product and prevent 5.47 pounds of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere.

Every year, Indiana Tech will be responsible for saving hundreds of gallons of water and eliminating hundreds of pounds of CO2 emissions from entering the atmosphere.

Over the past year, council member and Indiana Tech Law School faculty assistant Celia Garza spearheaded the initiative with research and discussions with stakeholders and university leadership to garner support

“I pushed hard to make it work because it was an easy way for everyone to make a huge impact without even thinking about it, really,” Garza said. “Like any disposable product at any party we’ve ever been to, once you’re finished snacking it goes right into the trash without a second thought. Now, every time we throw away a plate, a spoon or a fork, there is a sense of pride in knowing that these products are naturally derived and gentle on our delicate eco-system.”

The Indiana Tech Sustainability Council’s mission is to research, develop, recommend and assist in the awareness and execution of current and future projects, activities and sustainability practices for the university.