Dining halls toss trays to go green

By Beth King

Students eating on campus now have to make more trips or eat less as all but one dining hall have eliminated trays.

UK Dining Services decided to remove trays this fall as a way to cut back on waste produced by the dining halls, said Scott Henry, director of dining services. Chick-fil-A is the lone exception, since UK does not regulate the restaurant.

Sustainability is the main reason for the changes, Henry said. Dining Services also saw the same switch in campuses across the country, including the University of Cincinnati and Louisiana State University.

“We were seeing other campuses doing it and we wanted to do our part,” he said.

Henry said these changes on campus come at the perfect time because national studies show Lexington has a high amount of carbon emissions per capita.

Alongside tray removal, other steps have been taken by Dining Services, including the use of napkins, disposable plates, forks and spoons made of recycled products, which decompose in as little as two to three weeks, Henry said.

Blazer Cafe also added a $64,000 dishwasher that uses about one ounce of water per dish, he said.

The removal of trays reduced the food and beverage waste by 1.5 ounces per person per meal, in colleges that experimented with trayless dining last year, according to ARAMARK Higher Education, a dining services management company. That is a total savings equal to the weight of about 60,000 hamburgers per year.

In a study by the University of Cincinnati this summer, eliminating trays created a savings of around 2,030 pounds of wasted food from diners not loading up trays with extra food. It also reduced the huge amounts of water and chemicals used to clean and sanitize the trays.

However, the transformation to environmentally-friendly dining here at UK can be difficult for returning students to get used to. Meredith Barton, a junior, said the change is inconvenient.

“You have to be more cautious and make multiple trips,” Barton said.

Still some think the good points outweigh the bad.

“I think it could result in more broken dishes, but I applaud them for their efforts in helping the environment,” said senior Jamie Doyle.