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Brodhead Center reusable to-go container program has more than 400 participants in Fall 2019

A new Dining program enables anyone with a DukeCard to use a reusable to-go container for their Brodhead Center food.

The reusable takeout container program serves as an alternative to the Brodhead Center’s single-use disposable containers, wrote Marcus Carson, assistant director of Duke Dining for sustainability and quality control, in an email to The Chronicle. A member of the Duke community can sign up through Duke Dining’s website, check out a container from any Brodhead Center vendor and return it to the dish return.

“In addition to reducing the amount of waste that is sent to the landfill, once they’ve been used several times, these reusable to-go containers have a smaller greenhouse gas impact than disposable containers,” Carson wrote in an email to The Chronicle.

While the containers can only be used at the Brodhead Center, Carson wrote that Dining plans to expand the program to other vendors in the “coming months.” As of October, the program has had more than 400 participants.

Duke Dining has been aiming to increase the visibility of the containers through advertising and campaigning with the Duke Climate Coalition and Sustainable Duke’s Green Devils program, Carson added.

However, many students aren’t aware that the program is available, said sophomore Natalie Lewis, a member of the Duke Climate Coalition. Their efforts are currently targeting the attention of undergraduate students, Lewis said, but the Duke Climate Coalition will later shift its attention to faculty and graduate students who eat at the Brodhead Center.

“The program is basically aiming to reduce the number of compostable to-go containers used in [Brodhead Center],” said sophomore Kellie Johnson, a member of the Duke Climate Coalition’s Sustainability in Durham Subcommittee.

Another goal of the Coalition is to make the program more efficient, as several students have expressed concern about the restrictions of the program and container return to Brodhead Center, Johnson said.

“I would do this, but I’m not going to [the Brodhead Center] for a while, and I don’t want to hold onto a container,” Lewis said, mimicking the statements of some of the students with whom Lewis has spoken. 

The Coalition plans to create opportunities for container drop off near dorms and expand the program to other eateries on campus. 

In the long term, Johnson estimated that these containers could save vendors money that would otherwise have been spent on disposable containers. 

Since the University banned disposable plastics at all Duke Dining venues in 2018, vendors have only been using recyclable and compostable materials. The to-go container program fits into Duke Dining’s objective of reducing landfill waste, as Carson wrote in an email that “the only thing better than composting or recycling is reusing.” 

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