Pacific University’s former dining service provider, Aramark, switched its dinnerware last November from ceramic dishware to bambooware. Less than a year later, it disappeared without a trace.

The plates have been replaced with melamine, a high durability plastic, according to Bon Appetit General Manager Ethan Davidsohn. The decision was made due to the high walkoff rates with bambooware plates, said Center for a Sustainable Society (CSS) Director Michelle Larkins. “People liked the bamboo, and they stole the bamboo.”

“Let’s say [Aramark] started with 1,000 plates. By the time the Aramark contract closed, they probably had 300. There wasn’t enough to start service,” said Larkins. “Because of the walkoff rate, and because of not wanting to invest in used plates and cups, Bon Appetit made the decision not to buy the leftovers.”

CSS moved some of the leftover bambooware for use in the Mug Library. The bambooware that was not bought was donated to schools, emergency shelters and other Aramark serviced campuses, according to Larkins.

“Much of the supplies Aramark owned were donated,” Larkins said. “Even their office supplies were donated to schools.”

Davidsohn said the new material was chosen for its durability and resistance to staining. “I’ve worked in food service operations where we’ve used the same melamine plates for seven years and we’ve never had to replace them,” he said. Most Bon Appetit operations use melamine plates, Davidsohn said, except for a few locations that may still use ceramic.

Bambooware isn’t the only change to Pacific’s sustainability since the transition to Bon Appetit. Larkins said the catering company is working with facilities to resume composting food waste in the University Center, but that it may look different from Aramark’s composting system.

“They will be composting just like Aramark did,” said Larkins. “Their bins might look a little different, but we, Pacific, dictate that we compost.”

Bon Appetit reports how many pounds of food they have composted to CSS every week, Larkins said, which is used to keep track of how much the university has been composting over time. “I am still very invested in the process,” she said.

Some sustainability projects haven’t changed, though. Residence hall composting, operated solely by CSS, is continuing. Food waste composted there will continue to be given to Waste Management, Pacific University’s composting provider, according to Larkins.

Bon Appetit worked with a student worker to return the Mug Library to Starbucks this summer over their dining transition. Larkins said Starbucks cups are one of the largest sources of waste on campus.

“In one year, just from that single Starbucks, we throwaway approximately eight thousand pounds of plastic,” said Larkins. “That’s a really big waste source that, quite honestly, could be entirely eliminated if everybody brought a travel mug.”

Larkins also expressed interest in recreating a Sustainability Coordinator within Bon Appetit’s staff, a position formerly held by Gabriella Brill during her time with Aramark. 

“I’m very hopeful that [Bon Appetit] will replicate the type of system we had with Aramark where we had a sustainability go-to person,” said Larkins. “I don’t know who my primary point of contact is right now.” 

Davidsohn also expressed interest at returning the position. “It’s a conversation we could definitely have, for sure,” he said.


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