D2 and Shultz dining centers have been operating without trays since July 1. The move comes as a result of an Earth Week experiment designed to reduce food waste and possibly improve the consumption habits of students.
"All areas of Student Programs, including Dining Services, are looking for ways to become more environmentally friendly. One way to make a major impact is to reduce the disposal of edible food waste in the all-you-care-to-eat facilities," said Katie Gehrt, marketing and communications manager for Dining Services.
The move is far from a revolutionary change in the way dining centers are run across the country. Several campuses, including the University of Delaware, Dartmouth College and the University of Maine have taken the same action. Clemson is reported to have saved 4,585 gallons of water in its trayless stint during Earth Week.
Most universities credit the savings to the fact that students really have to think carefully about which foods they select. They cannot simply pile everything on, eat what looks good, and throw the rest away. However, many students are not convinced.
The official campus notice reported that during that week in April, there was " ... a 38 percent reduction in food waste, or the equivalent of 1,546 pounds of food."
"If it cuts down on food waste, then it cuts down on food waste and in my opinion, there's no argument there. As a society, we are highly wasteful as it is, and if this appears to help at all, then as Tech students we should do our part," said sophomore physics and French major John Hoffman.
While the move at other universities tended to be largely unnoticed by new freshmen students who make up the majority of those who live on campus, and therefore must purchase a meal plan, there have been many upperclassman skeptics. Some do not like the inconvenience, and others just aren't sure of the magnitude of the difference it will make.
"There is probably no denying that going trayless does decrease the waste. I have a hard time thinking that the ones in control aren't just doing this more because it looks good than because it is actually a good thing to do," said sophomore Doug Hogan.
Other students expressed concern in the data collection, fearing that during the pilot week, more people simply avoided the inconvenience of a trayless D2, instead choosing to dine at an alternate establishment, further contributing to the crowdedness at West End Market and Owens Food Court during meal times.