August 26, 2008

Balancing Act: Food Trays vs. Common Sense

CNN reports that in an effort to conserve water, Glenville State College has eliminated trays from the college cafeterias. And what's more, they are not alone.
"Other schools are trying to cut down on wasted food and conserve energy. Proponents, including major food vendors, say it also reduces the use of water-polluting detergents."
So does not using detergents that don't break down. Why don't we switch to non-polluting detergents, huh?

And as for saving water, if they REALLY wanted to save water, stop watering the baseball and football fields; encourage students to only flush twice a day, and rig Navy style metered showers.

THAT's how you make a difference. Lame-brained but highly visible half-assed solutions don't solve problems, they merely give the appearance of caring about the problem.

Seriously, they could install recyclers to re-use every single drop of gray water coming out of the kitchen; instead these clueless morons decide to get rid of the trays so students are left trying to manage flimsy paper trays, napkins, plastic flatware, milk cartons, and so on, without spilling or dropping any of it. I guess these colleges believe that wasting food is preferable to "wasting" water.

What's next? Reducing electrical use by removing all the lights from schools? Hey, that's not bad; we could drop English in favor of braille. That would eliminate lighting costs AND mainstream blind literature in one fell swoop!

If our colleges are this stupid, it's no wonder we can't get a credible solution to problems out of Washington.


  1. I agree to what you are saying, and wanted to tag onto this. The picture of the tray you have shows items that will most likely be thrown instead of recycled. Think of all the waste generated from the styrofoam and plastics used. Why not get rid of these items and use reuseable plates; and in turn recycle the water used to clean these. The human and environmental impacts of styrofoam are largely unknown and quite frankly concerning to me when you read some of the potential toxins. Let alone the fact that Styrofoam takes nearly 1000 years to disintegrate.

  2. I work at a college and eat in the cafeteria for lunch with 900 students. It's a busy place. It takes 2 to 3 trips to get everything you need for your lunch, main serving line, salad bar, drink, eating utensils, etc.

    I am a little leery of leaving my food on the table while I go grab my other "stuff."

    I was told I could bring my own tray! lol

  3. I'm not sure why you get the impression that this particular form of energy savings is a waste of time. This is exactly the direction and line of thought that needs to go on to help our environment.

    Also, eliminating trays has actually reduced food waste at my college as well as others, so the argument that food is spilled and thus wasted more doesn't stand up. In fact, I have yet to see anyone in the cafeteria drop food since going trayless!

  4. Shaun-
    Nice strawman. The old bait and switch. Rather than refute my actual points, you lie about what I said and hope that I'm stupid enough to chase it down. You must be quite the terror in community college, Mr. Carter.

    But I didn't mention ENERGY savings at all. I discussed the effects on water usage and water pollution, but I didn't deal with its effect on energy use.

    But I will now; in fact, it's not much of a savings in energy. I say this particular form of "savings" is a waste of time and effort, because it is a waste of time and effort.

    They still have to wash the pots and pans that they cooked the food in, and that uses almost as much energy as it would with the trays added back in. Pennies on the dollar.

    And while pennies DO add up, dollars add up faster.

    Remember, all that food is now being served on disposable plates and dishes, with plastic flatware. The cost of processing that waste - including recycling - is about four times the cost of washing the trays. It has to be sorted, hauled away, cleaned, broken down, reformed, and then re-formed, packaged and shipped out to be sold again.

    THIS is how you save energy? Your college is ripping you off, or you're wasting their time; either way, you're obviously not learning much.

    When you look at the ENTIRE picture, instead of the photo op, it's readily apparent that it's better to eliminate the disposables and wash trays; you save a LOT more energy in the long haul.

    As for reducing food wastage? I don't know what fairy-tale college you're going to. In the REAL world, most students simply try to juggle the same amount of food. More of them will fail to move the food successfully without trays than they would have with the trays. The fact is that when you remove trays from service, spills increase. Ask a hospitality management major.

    I stand by my original post: the measures being taken by colleges as described in the referenced CNN article are at best half-assed, the result of incompetent bureaucracy taking the short view. At worst, they actually contribute to energy and water wastage, and increase costs in the long run.