By Jeff Kimbell
Director, Dining Services
I think we would all agree that plastic pollution is a growing problem.
Many of us have probably seen news reports or videos about the impact that this problem is having on our natural resources and marine life. Growing up near the beaches of Southern California, I vividly remember seeing seagulls injured by plastic straws and sea mammals who died from eating plastic water bottles. The problem has now gotten so bad that virtually every surface of the ocean is somehow impacted by plastic pollution. An article by the Center for Biological Diversity estimates that by 2050, plastic debris in our lakes, bays, and oceans will outweigh all of the fish in these same waters!
Many may not know that Erickson Living has a sustainability strategy in place that has increased recycling and saved water, energy, and even trees through improved planting practices. Recently, Dining Services became a more substantial part of this strategy by launching a sustainable paper program. Through this new program, all of our disposable plastic products have been replaced with ones that are either biodegradable, compostable, or recyclable.
Our cups and lids are now polystyrene free, made with paper and a polyethylene coating that can be processed in a commercial composting facility. Our new disposable plates are made from wheat straw and have been scientifically certified as compostable by the Biodegradable Products Institute. Our new recyclable side dish containers also enable us to reduce our carbon footprint by providing you with the same portion sizes in a smaller, more compact container. Our new vented three-compartment carryout container is not only recyclable, but it also has the added advantage of being microwavable so your meals can go straight into the microwave without the necessity of being transferred to a different plate.
Our straws are now made from paper, making them the best biodegradable straw on the market. An interesting side note is that through the evaluation period, our procurement team placed one of these paper straws in a glass of water to test its durability and the straw lasted for several hours without any degradation.
While the journey of being better stewards of the environment is not over, I believe that our new sustainable paper program is a positive step in the right direction.