Cutting waste

Minnesota State Mankato Dining Services, run by Sodexo, is finding various ways to reduce food waste. Dining services started Trayless Tuesday last semester as a pilot program at Carkoski and Gage dining halls to prevent students from carrying too much food at a time and creating more waste.

The idea behind the program was to identify how much food waste there was when students use trays versus when student did not use trays.

“What we found was, on average, we went through about 11 more cans of garbage on days we had trays,” said University Dining Services Marketing Manager Phil Novak.

Novak added that the size of a garbage can is 60 gallons and they usually weigh 55 pounds when they’re filled in.

For all of the 2010 spring semester, dining services had Trayless Tuesdays. In the end, the Resident Hall Association found most students decided to support the sustainable effort, so Trayless Tuesdays were made permanent.

In addition to reducing the food waste, Dining Services also discovered a drastic reduction in water waste because it didn’t have to use the dishwasher as much to wash the trays. is a website Sodexo promotes, and the company has put up posters on campus to show the difference in how long it takes to make food versus the seconds it takes to throw it away.

The company also placed those posters in the resident dining halls to raise awareness.

“When people are there putting their dishes away — half of the dishes full of food — maybe they’ll think about that,” Novak said. “We have those posters up there to raise awareness, so the students may just take one plate at a time instead of taking two or three plates at a time.”

Campus Kitchen also gets the Dining Services’ accessed foods.

Both the Residence Hall Association and students help make the choice work with Campus Kitchen to save money and feed more families in the community.

However, dining services has received complaints from students as well.

Benjamin Brooks, who was an RHA member, voted against Trayless Tuesdays, while the majority of his group supported the idea.

“I’m still against it,” Brooks said. “A lot of people have this weird idea that the trays cause more waste because they need to wash the trays. What happened was people dropped their plates more. They try to hold more than they can hold with two hands. It just makes more mess. I really wish they would bring the trays back.”

Brooks actually talked to the manager once, but nothing has changed.

“It’s disappointing, but just gotta deal with it,” he said.

“There’s always going to be someone out there that is unhappy,” Novak said. “We can’t please everybody. But it’s our job to make sure we tell them why we made this change and continue to raise awareness about sustainability.”

Dining Services also replaced Styrofoam containers with compostable papers in Retail Areas in the Centennial Student Union, Wissink Hall and Myers Field Market Place.

The change to paper products was made in 2009 and the biggest price increase in expenditures it made was only a dime.  

Americans trash 25 percent of all the food they prepare each year, leading to 31 million tons of wasted food piling up in landfills.

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