Switching a university dining hall from a system using trays to a trayless system significantly reduces the amount of food waste produced per patron, say researchers.
The team believes that using this system on a large scale would substantially reduce the total amount of food wasted and make big institutions such as universities more environmentally sustainable.
The researchers say the only problem with a trayless system might be that the cleaning duties of the dining hall employees would increase slightly after implementation due to increased dishware breakage and an increased need to wipe down tables.
Writing in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Krisha Thiagarajah and Victoria Getty, both from Indiana University, Bloomington, USA, report the results of a study assessing the amount of food wastage that occurred in a buffet-style dining hall that serves around 1000 meals each day.
The study took place over 2 weeks. During the first week, the normal system using trays was used and liquid and solid food waste per patron were measured. During the second week, a trayless system was instituted and the amount of waste was measured in a similar way.
Thiagarajah and Getty observed a significant reduction in the amount of solid food waste generated per patron with the trayless over the normal system, from 4.39 to 3.58 oz per person. They say that this could amount to 400 oz solid food saved per week if 500 people regularly eat in the dining hall.
There was also a reduction in liquid waste generated, from 49.77 to 46.36 mL per person, but this was not statistically significant.
"This study, therefore, strongly suggests that going trayless in a buffet-style setting is a useful way to reduce solid plate waste," write the authors.
"According to employees, two issues that might need attention when putting a trayless system in place are increased breakage of dishware and increased need to wipe down tables. Otherwise, employee response to the switch was positive," they add.
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