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Campus Launches Major Plastic Waste Reduction in Dining Services

Waste reduction

Together, the Faculty Student Association (FSA), CulinArt and the Undergraduate Student Government (USG) are making strides toward reducing the amount of plastic waste produced by the dining operations and shifting to more environmentally friendly materials.  

Waste reduction“Sustainability is making choices with long-term perspectives to the environment and society. By leading the initiative with FSA to transition away from using disposable plastics, and instead using compostable containers, we are guiding Seawolves to live a greener and more sustainable lifestyle,” explained Shaheer Khan, USG President.

According to Plastic Oceans, more than 8 million tons of plastic waste are dumped into oceans each year. Plastic waste has an immense negative impact on the environment as it pollutes waterways, its disposal clogs up landfills and litters the land and water, and causes severe problems in marine habitats.  

The shift began last spring at Midnight Breakfast where alternative serviceware was used instead of plastic materials and utensils to serve more than 2,900 students. This academic year dining locations have transitioned away from using disposable plastics and instead are using compostable containers made from sugarcane, paper products and Greenware, drink cups and containers made entirely from annually renewable plants – not petroleum.

“We pride ourselves on finding ways to make Stony Brook a more sustainable campus, and this impactful transition away from disposable plastics will annually decrease the use of over 300,000 plastic serveware items from the SAC Food Court, for instance,” stated Dawn Villacci, FSA Manager for Campus Dining.

Making Strides at Plastic Reduction

  • The dining program was using 24,000 plastic clamshells for takeout each year. The plastic clamshell containers have been replaced with a hinged container made from sugarcane. 
  • The reusable takeout container program is now offered at three dining locations. Campus Dining ordered more than 5,000 containers, and they are replenishing the racks often to fill the need. Any student can participate in this program and use their container to take food out at East Side Dine-in, West Side Dine-in and Roth Food Court.
  • Plastic hero sandwich containers have been replaced with paper boats and paper liners.
  • Soup container plastic lids have been replaced with paper lids. 
  • Stir-fry to-go containers with plastic lids have been replaced with a lid made from pulp. 
  • At Healthy by Nature in East Side Dining, the smoothie cups are made from Greenware plant-based containers.
  • The new ecotainer coffee cups have lids made from pulp, which saves 96,000 plastic coffee lids from the landfill. 
  • Plastic straws have been eliminated from dining locations. Dining services recognizes that there are people with disabilities that need straws; therefore, corn straws are only available upon request at the cashier. These straws are compostable and made out of cornstarch, which is a renewable resource, unlike traditional plastic straws that are made from petroleum.
  • Our campus convenience stores no longer offer plastic bags for purchase and instead sell reusable tote bags at the East Side Dining Emporium and the Market at West Side convenience stores.  

Beginning in January 2020, Stony Brook University will be participating in RecycleMania, an eight-week competition for colleges and universities focused on reducing waste and increasing recycling. In 2019, 5.1 million students, faculty and staff from 300 American and Canadian campuses recycled and composted 69.5 million pounds of waste and cut out 300 million single-use plastic containers from the waste stream.

To learn more about dining sustainabilities initiatives, visit If you have ideas on additional ways to make Stony Brook a greener campus, please submit your feedback at the FSA website.

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