Volume 47, Number 9 - December 14, 2009

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Sergio Candido
Sergio Candido

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Picture of person buying container
BE GREEN: Anyone dining in the cafeteria, such as the police academy student featured above, will pay an extra 35 cents for an eco-friendly container. Photo by Alejo Stark/Falcon Times Staff.

Paying the price to go green

By Sergio Candido

Picture of green containers
The small to-go containers went from 10 to 15 cents and the large to-go containers from 25 to 35 cents.

Continuing the path toward a culture of environmental sustainability, the North Campus has substituted its styrofoam food containers at the cafeteria for new—and more expensive—environmentally friendly containers.

The small to-go containers suffered a five-cent increase in price (from 10 cents to 15 cents) and the large to-go containers a 10-cent increase (from 25 cents to 35 cents).

The measure was implemented “about a month and a half ago,” to progressively replace every drinkware and dishware for “green” items, said Franco Curiel, district manager for Lackmann Culinary Services in South Florida, the company that manages the North Campus cafeteria.

Curiel said that the food service industry is slowly changing toward sustainable products; machines had to be adapted or made to produce such items, as a result, rising prices were needed to mitigate the cost.

“I’ve been working for four or five months, it is hard to find all of these products in the market, most companies still make styrofoam containers,” said Curiel, who has been providing Miami Dade College with food services for 12 years.

Cristina Mateo, dean of administration, said via e-mail that despite the higher cost, “based on information provided to the College, Lackmann does not profit from the sale of these containers.”

Responses to the new containers were varied among students.

“It’s outrageous, it should be cheaper because they are using materials that have already been processed,” Paul Manso, a business administration major, said.

Student Government Association President Juliette Llado acknowledges she was made aware that the cafeteria was embarking on an initiative regarding possible green products to assist in the college-wide green campaign.

She also said that as of now, no “direct formal complaints” have been brought to her attention regarding the containers.

“Many students have brought to my attention the fact that these new green products have a direct positive effect in our environment,” Llado said via e-mail.

There are options for students who do not wish to pay for eco-friendly products.

Light-green signs specifying the price of to-go containers are posted on every food station at the cafeteria; next to each sign, there are two stacks of “green” plates that students can use for free. The eco-friendly plates cost 12 cents each, a price absorbed by Lackmann,” Curiel said.

But according to a survey of 10 students taken by The Falcon Times - none were asked by cafeteria workers if they wanted their food on a “green” plate.

“I eat here on a weekly basis; they always put the food directly in the container,” said 19-year-old Emanuel Suarez, one of the students surveyed.

Other options are smaller paper containers and the possibility of having food plastic wrapped.

More free items include paper soda cups and paper soup cups.

Also, the new environmentally friendly products are being promoted as “biodegradable” something which could be misleading.

Upon visually inspecting the containers made of bagasse paper (the fibrous residue remaining after sugarcane stalks are crushed), Pedro Garcia, professor of chemistry at the science complex, said that proper tests should be done to check biodegradability.

According to an article in the November 2006 issue of The Environmental Magazine, “in a landfill study conducted by the University of Arizona, researchers uncovered 50-year-old newspapers that were still readable. As such, any biodegradation that does take place does so very slowly.”

“Maybe it’s biodegradable in 1,000 years, which would be the same as not being biodegradable,” Garcia said.

Curiel said the Kendall Campus and Broward College have also implemented the new containers. He also hopes to have the North Campus cafeteria completely environmentally friendly by next year.

“These products came here to stay,” Curiel said.

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