Pitt spends around tens of thousands of dollars per month on disposable plastic and paper containers for the to-go food we get on campus. That is hundreds of thousands of dollars that could be added to our budget every year. The University has already invested in a reusable container system that, if implemented fully, would eliminate the need for the 235,000 disposable containers Pitt buys each month. These savings could contribute to lower tuition, sufficient student health and counseling resources, better Wi-Fi connection, practice space for our teams and clubs and so on.
Choose to Reuse, a reusable takeout container system implemented in the William Pitt Union food court in spring 2017, has failed to take advantage of these potential savings. The University has built C2R around pricing models and procedures that do not encourage student participation. Right now, a student who wants to use C2R has to pay a 99-cent fee to enter the program and go out of their way to ask for a reusable container every time they order.
Behavioral economics research shows that people are most likely inclined to do something if it is the default option and if the alternative is disincentivized. C2R could be restructured to increase participation if all students, staff and faculty received free entry into the program and meals were automatically served in reusable containers unless requested otherwise. The University could also charge a 1 dollar fee for disposable containers to discourage their use. Support for these proposed changes is stated in the Choose to Reuse Initiative (Board Resolution 2019.01), which the Student Government Board will vote on today during their 8:45 p.m. public meeting.
University administrators also need to hear from students directly to understand that we’re done overlooking the hypocrisy in them telling us to achieve ambitious reuse goals while making reusable containers a more expensive and less convenient option. Students can sign a petition expressing support for a more effective program model.