Dining Center dumps trays to reduce food waste
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When students’ eyes are bigger than their stomachs, it shows in the form of heaps of wasted food left in the dining center.

In an effort to eliminate food waste at SF State’s main residential dining center, City Eats, the use of trays has been eliminated beginning this semester.

Although this is the first time SF State has taken this step, it is a growing trend. According to Edward Vicedo, director of dining services for Chartwells, the residential food service provider for SF State, universities across the country have eliminated trays.

Vicedo said the elimination of trays has been successful at other universities and estimated City Eats has reduced its food waste by about 60 percent since it stopped using trays. That’s approximately 2,200 pounds saved each week over last semester, Vicedo estimated based on the reduction of food waste pile up in the composting bins.

Between City Eats and Café in the Park, which never used trays, Vicedo estimates that 2,000 to 3,000 meals are served each day. The former use of trays, while convenient to the students, faculty and housing staff that patron the dining center, also contribute to a great amount of food waste because students aren’t eating all of the food they’re taking, some housing staff said.

Some of the students aren’t so happy about the change.

“I liked it better when we had trays,” said Pierce Conwi, 19, “By the time you get back for your third time everything is gone.”

Fellow student, Chris Turner, 20, agrees.

“It’s a good gesture but I don’t think it does much for anyone,” he said adding that it makes it more challenging to take a plate, a drink, and a piece a fruit back to the table at once.

One time, Turner said, he left one plate on the table to go up and get more food and when he returned he found that one of the staff had removed his plate.

“That was annoying,” Turner said.

Other students said they didn’t really mind the new no tray policy.

“Every once in awhile you have to get up to get seconds,” said Paul Karshner, 18, but that’s not too much of an inconvenience.”

Vicedo acknowledged that the tray elimination project might not be the most popular among students, and cited that the biggest problem that’s developed since the change has to do with keeping the center neater.

“Unfortunately, as a result, our tables are not as clean as we would like,” Vicedo said.

Vicedo added that the dining center anticipated that they would have food falling on the center’ s floor and intentionally hired someone this semester whose sole duty is to clean the dining center’s floors. In addition, Vicedo said that they hope students will participate in cleaning the tables as much as possible.

The elimination of trays is part of the dining center’s efforts to reduce waste. The center has composted its food since 2001.

“It’s all about protecting the environment and about not leaving too big of an imprint on this earth,” Vicedo of the dining center’s move towards less waste. “This is one of the steps we took.”

At the dining center, hundreds of resident students contribute daily to the compost pile, whether they know it or not, said Vicedo. There is a plan in place to collect both pre- and post-consumption waste.

“Someone takes each [plate] and scrapes off all organics into here,” Vicedo said, lifting the lid of an aromatic blue plastic bin. “There are no trash bins out front, so it all comes here.”

Downstairs in the preparation kitchen, the cooks discard old fruit and rinds, meat skins and waxed cardboard from tofu boxes into another blue bin.

All told, nearly 800 pounds of organic scraps get composted each week during the semester, Vicedo estimated. As a result, his garbage bill—which is paid to the university for the amount they disposed of—has decreased since spring 2006, when the program began.

Sunset Scavenger offers a discount on hauling that increases if the percentage of trash deferred from the landfill increases, so Vicedo’s 800 pounds a week save him money.

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