Campus Dining Going Green with Biodegradable Cups and Plates, Aug. 14, 2008

By Roger Renteria Taterware

Right: Want taters with that? Chartwells new biodegradable plates are made of potatoes.

SOCORRO, N.M., Aug. 14, 2008 — New Mexico Tech’s dining contractor, Chartwells, is introducing a new line of environmentally friendly and disposable food containers made out of potatoes. This is an initiative to provide diners a chance to reduce the impact on the earth’s environment.

Customers choosing to eat-out of the cafeteria will have two options to take their food with them — a free plate or pay an additional 25-cents for a to-go box. TaterWare, the brand name of the plates and boxes, is made from potatoes and is, unlike Styrofoam, biodegradable.

TaterWare may feel strange to touch at first, but it is strong enough to hold food and resistant to heat of up to 375 degrees Fahrenheit said Curtis Ortiz, Director of Dining Services. “We’re very happy trying to implement it here.”

Ortiz says each unit of the Chartwells company is trying to help with the environment as an initiative to go green.

“Many customers like the idea of helping the environment and are willing to pay a small amount to do so,” Ortiz said. He said that the initial reaction to the new plates has been overwhelmingly positive. He plans to initiate other environmentally-friendly programs for the dining facilities.

More taterware

Left: Biodegradable "Taterware" comes in several forms.

Currently, Ortiz has ordered 300 ceramic coffee cups to replace the Styrofoam cups that are being used for coffee and tea in the dining area.

“This reduces the amount we have to dispose,” says Ortiz.

Future plans include providing paper cups and silverware made from potatoes as they become more affordable. Ortiz said the coffee shop, which serves Starbucks coffee, has been offering recycled paper products and environmentally friendly plastic cups since opening in 2006.

Ortiz said he welcomes any suggestions for improving the cafeteria and coffee shop’s impact on the environment and appreciates any comments about their dining services. He can be found regularly working in the Fidel dining room.