Dining waste increases in fall semester

The Can the Waste campaign will continue to educate residents.
Mark Twain Market, along with other on-campus dining halls, records waste by each tray. Total waste per tray has dropped 0.72 ounces since October 2008 but increased by 0.57 ounces per tray during the fall 2009 semester.

Campus Dining Services' campaign to reduce plate waste faltered in the fall semester; the amount of waste per tray increased 12.8 percent, CDS Associate Director Steve Simpson said.

CDS began tracking waste in its five buffet-style dining halls in October 2008. Although waste per tray increased in fall 2009, the total has dropped from 5.74 to 5.02 ounces per tray in the last 15 months. CDS spokesman Andrew Lough said waste totals for this semester have been trending downward.

"On average, our numbers have been down each month this semester," Lough said. "There are particular months where a particular unit has superseded their number from last year, but overall, the numbers look somewhat encouraging."

Changes of 1 or 2 ounces of food waste per tray in CDS' dining halls can translate into hundreds of thousands of pounds of waste each year, Simpson said.

"CDS serves approximately 2 million meals per calendar year in the 'all-you-care-to-eat' venues, excluding take-out locations," Simpson said. "If waste per meal averages 4 ounces per person, this results in approximately 500,000 pounds of wasted food and beverage annually. A reduction of just 1 ounce of food and beverage food waste per meal would equate into a savings of 125,000 pounds of product annually."

The average plate waste in September 2009 was 4.45 ounces per tray, Simpson said. December 2009 had 5.02 ounces of waste per tray, an increase of 0.57 ounces per person.

Food waste is not being measured at Baja dining hall and other take-out locations.

"The dining halls that are tracking plate waste are the five residential all-you-care-to-eat units," Simpson said. "Rollins, Eva J's, Plaza 900, Pavilion at Dobbs and Mark Twain Market. Rollins is closed for renovation during spring semester 2010, so they are not tracking this semester."

The data is collected once a week and averaged over a four-week period to produce the month statistic.

"All-you-care-to-eat residential dining locations measured consumer food waste each week and posted the ounces-per-customer results each month from October 2008 through April 2009 with the goal of reducing customer food waste," Simpson said.

CDS has implemented several different campaigns and procedures in the attempt to reduce food waste, Simpson said.

"Can the Waste was a five-day campaign designed to heighten residential student awareness regarding the wasted food, paper, cleaning supplies and natural resources due to excessive amounts of plate waste in all-you-care-to-eat environments," Simpson said.

Can the Waste took place Oct. 5 through Oct. 9 last year.

Freshman Cietta Grose said she is not surprised with the increased figures for plate waste.

"I myself am guilty of wasting food," Grose said. "It's like the old saying goes, your eyes are bigger than your stomach."

Lough said he's hopeful CDS' waste output would decrease again in the next few months.

"The percentage increase is a bit larger this year," Lough said. "But I do expect to see the numbers trend down in second semester, as they did last year."

— Staff writer Jared Grafman contributed to this report

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