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Tully’s Stirs To-Go Container Controversy

Tully’s no longer displays to-go containers as part of Housing & Food Services’ sustainability efforts. Containers are available by request for students taking food out of the facility.

The reason for the change is to encourage students eating in Tully’s to use china instead of to-go containers. Tully’s staff are happy to provide containers to students actually taking food to-go.

Students using to-go containers while eating in Tully’s simply to throw them away minutes later remains a huge problem. This is the main reason the change has been necessary, said Director of Housing & Food Services Kathy Ashby.

“We have a commitment to supporting sustainable initiatives,” Ashby said.

Currently, Tully’s recycles many materials, including plastic, aluminum, glass, cardboard, office paper, and cooking oil. Not included in that list is styrofoam, which to-go containers are made of.

According to the Energy Information Administration, styrofoam is difficult to recycle. People often assume it can be recycled because it displays a recycling symbol, but there are very few facilities that actually accept this material. It is toxic if incinerated and will sit in a landfill for a million years or more before decomposing naturally.

In addition to sustainability reasons, to-go containers are expensive and Tully’s has very limited space to store them.

The reaction to the initiative has been extremely disappointing and usage of to-go containers has not decreased, said Ashby.

Moreover, customers tend to be rude when requesting to-go containers, taking anger out on staff, said Housing & Food Services Manager Tom Henry.

An anonymous student gave this negative comment on the feedback board in Tully’s: “It’s a real inconvenience to make people have no choice but to eat inside Tully’s every time they get hungry. Bring back the to-go containers.”

Another student wrote, “Get to-go boxes or I will start throwing away plates.”

Tully’s has also received some positive feedback: “Thank you for making to-go boxes request only. This has been working well. One step closer to zero-waste,” wrote one student.

Contact Housing & Food Services if you are interested, like this student, in the success of sustainability initiatives.

“We are really interested in working with students that are concerned,” said Ashby.


Ashley is a senior professional writing major at Penn State.
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