The implementation of trayless dining at campus dining commons has significantly cut back on the average amount of food waste produced this quarter — in some instances by more than half.
Last school year, Associated Students Environmental Affairs Board put plans in motion for a Sustainable Foods campaign, which resulted in the removal of all dining trays from the university’s dining facilities. This simple modification has cut the average waste at De La Guerra Dining Commons by 54 percent — from 6.4 ounces per person in the spring to 2.95 ounces of waste per person this quarter. Moreover, the total waste per person, per meal is down 37 percent across all university dining commons.
According to Mark Rousseau, Housing & Residential Services’ energy and environmental manager, the new system forces students to take only what they need. Jill Horst, director of Residential Dining Services, says this prevents diners from stocking up on food just for the sake of filling their trays.
“We’re serving thousands of meals per day, so that impact is tremendous,” Horst said in a press release. “It’s a huge decrease in food waste, and that’s because [diners are] only taking what they really want. They’re not loading up their trays.”
Although trayless dining inevitably leads to more food mess being strewn across tables, Horst said, the progression towards net-zero sustainable practices is well worth the extra clean-up.
According to a press release, aside from the anticipated decrease in food waste, less kitchenware requires washing under the new trayless plan. Subsequently, Horst said, Residential and Dining Services is beginning to enjoy water and energy savings as well.
This new sustainable strategy has been so successful, Horst said, there’s no need for the dining commons to use trays ever again.
The only diners who are provided trays, she said, are diners who are disadvantaged or injured, and require the assistance of a tray to load up a meal.