Earlier this month, Miami University Dining announced on its Twitter that it would return to china service in all dining commons locations by the middle of October.
This only proves that single-use containers were a temporary solution to be extra safe during COVID-19. All food will now have to be consumed on-site and the china returned once finished.
While it is great news that the university is going back towards a more sustainable system, there is the question of why now?
It is understandable why Miami switched to single-use containers and utensils at the beginning of the pandemic, as it was believed to be a significant transmitter of the virus while there was still so much unknown.
Before the pandemic began, all of the dining halls used china and silverware, it was only due to the initial fear of surface transmission that prompted the switch.
Yet, according to the CDC, surface transmission is basically obsolete, as each contact with a contaminated surface has less than a 0.0001% chance of causing an infection. This is significantly lower than the main mode of transmission, which is through the air.
The article quoted was last updated in April of this year, meaning that the university had access to the knowledge that using single-use items are not a significant way to slow the spread, and that keeping them on campus was doing more harm to the environment than the small, if any, contribution it has to slowing infection rates.
It can not be known entirely by you and I the exact reason for keeping these containers in dining halls for so long, but it is obvious that there was reason to get rid of them earlier.
Single-use plastics and other containers are a major contributor to the mind-boggling amount of waste that humans produce daily, a good amount of which never makes it to the landfills and ends up polluting our oceans and other natural areas.
The waste crisis is one of the biggest obstacles that needs to be addressed when it comes to climate change, in tandem with air pollution, global warming, and more.
There has been plenty of push in other industries, however, to switch to more sustainable products, with reusable water bottles, reusable grocery bags, metal straws, and more products that promote sustainability gaining traction and becoming more widespread.
Using china and metal utensils in dining halls is much more sustainable than single-use plastics, as it minimizes waste. The university will also no longer buy products made in factories, lessening the amount of pollution put into the air that we inevitably contribute to.
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It is another reminder that we impact the environment not always in our direct actions but also in the places and companies that we interact with.
However, it cannot be said that Miami does not make an effort to increase its sustainability in other parts of campus. On Sept. 22, 2020, Miami joined the PCLC Climate Commitment.
This is a promise to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and become carbon neutral as soon as possible. Miami also encourages recycling and there are signs in the dining halls encouraging students to be conscious about how much food they waste.
The issue with single-use containers can serve as a reminder that it is all of our responsibility to hold the institution we give money to accountable. It is not enough to be satisfied with small changes, it is important to keep pushing for a greener campus.
So, while students may be disappointed about no longer being able to take food in to-go containers, it’s worth it to reduce our waste.
Climate change is an ever-evolving issue that requires constant combat and innovation, and every step that can be taken, big and small, is important.
And if bringing your own reusable to-go containers into the dining halls is the price we need to pay, I’d say it’s a small one.