Reusable to-go containers proving an early hit at Gracie’s

Follow Rich Kiley on Twitter
Follow RITNEWS on Twitter

A. Sue Weisler

Gracie’s has implemented the Ozzi system, eliminating disposable to-go containers and replacing them with reusable ones.

Have you seen Ozzi at Gracie’s this semester?

No, the Ozzy of heavy metal and television family fame has not enrolled at RIT. Effective this semester, Gracie’s implemented the Ozzi system, eliminating 
disposable to-go containers and replacing them with reusable ones.

The goal of the pilot program is to purge the use of 94,000 disposable to-go containers (that’s 4 tons) from Gracie’s, together with eradicating the growing costs to buy and dispose of the waste associated with throwaway containers.

Originally introduced at the Rhode Island School of Design and showcased at a National Association of College and University Food Services trade show, the Ozzi system has been implemented at a number of smaller colleges and universities throughout the country.

According to Scott Vadney ’91 (food management), general manager of Gracie’s, RIT represents the largest university to 
employ the system to date.

“We’ve gotten things off to a good start and surprisingly there’s been little negative feedback for the program,” Vadney says. 

Each on-campus student received one 
token in their mailbox when they returned to campus this fall. Each token allows a 
student to receive one to-go container, which is National Sanitation Foundation approved and made from recyclable No. 5 polypropylene. Added benefits include keeping food hotter for longer periods of time and they are microwave-safe as well 
as BPA-free.

To procure a to-go meal from Gracie’s, students provide the cashier a token and get back food in a clean container in return. After using the container, it can be returned to any of the three storage kiosks on 
campus—in the Gracie’s lobby, Kate Gleason Hall or Nathaniel Rochester Hall. Upon returning the container, the kiosk generates a new token for the process to start all over again. Kiosks are emptied 
regularly throughout the day and replenished with tokens as necessary.

As of the end of October, more than 12,000 returns had been processed through the system with an initial purchase of only 800 reusable containers. 

One of those students, Katelyn Hohmann, a third-year American Sign Language interpretation education major from Constantia, N.Y., started using the containers as soon as they were available.

“I constantly use them, several times a week in fact. A lot of times I am busy or on the run and it is extremely convenient to use them whenever I need them,” she says. “I told all of my friends and they started getting into the habit of using them, too.”

Enid Cardinal, senior sustainability 
advisor to the president, says the program represents yet another example of RIT’s 
ongoing commitment to sustainability.

“Scott really wants to turn Gracie’s into a zero-waste facility,” Cardinal says. “It is where we first started food-recovery efforts through Recover Rochester, and also where we have been piloting compost collection. Both programs are now in varying stages 
of rollout around campus.”

According to Vadney, Dining Services is evaluating expanding Ozzi to other dining areas, most likely Commons initially, but for now the reusable containers are only available at Gracie’s.

He’d also like to eliminate the use of 
tokens and store information on the 
back of identification cards, but digital 
security needs to be addressed first. 
The network that manages dining 
account dollars (and everything else) 
on campus is tightly regulated.

In the meantime, students such as Hohmann hope to be seeing plenty of the reusable Ozzi to-go containers at Gracie’s.

“It is a huge step up, in my opinion, from the old ones and now we don’t have to 
constantly throw away thousands either,” says Hohmann. “I think they’re great!”