Keep searching for a trayless solution

Lucy Hough

When we use campus eateries, many of us have made the conscious decision not to use a tray because we learned, from the heated debate last year, that doing so is more environmentally friendly. However, Dining Services has implemented a new system in the Marketplace (MP) that has made going trayless a difficult choice.

A recent change in dishes procedure has those who use trays simply placing dishes or tray right on the blue conveyor belt. However, students who decide to skip the tray are left behind, putting each dish in a designated bin: cups, bowls, silverware, plates.

Oftentimes, these bins pile up, especially during busy times of the day, and students are left holding dishes, unsure of where to put them and frustrated. According to Greg Minner, director of Dining Services, this system was put into place because loose items were breaking off pieces of the conveyor belt. If students put these dishes, especially silverware, into bins rather than on the belt, then there is less chance of the belt breaking.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t change the fact that it discourages a result that Dining Services hopes to eventually reach: trayless status. I have always supported going trayless. I think it is smart not only because it saves a large amount of water used in cleaning, but also because it keeps us from eating larger portions. And for those of us who heartily love a large selection of food, eating at the MP makes it incredibly easy to go back for more. A tray is simply unnecessary.

This school year, efforts have been made on behalf of Dining Services to make it more of a challenge to retrieve a tray. Rather than walking in and being greeted by a stack of shining trays, students can find them only if they look for them. I think this was an ingenious idea by Dining Services, and will help keep trays out of students’ minds as they get their food.

The decision to continue using trays was made at the beginning of the summer when a survey by the Associated Students of NMU (ASNMU) came back with student opinion 70 percent in favor of using trays. Jason Morgan, president of ASNMU, in conjunction with Minner, decided to keep trays for another year and continue their efforts to edify students as to why going
trayless is beneficial.

While I think that these measures are advantageous to the smart result of going trayless, some actions are reversing their ideals. There are few, if any, signs in the Den or the MP describing why students should make the trayless choice. Also, making those who choose to go trayless do double the work is not an encouraging measure. Though this may be pure laziness
on part of the trayless, why put students who are making the more conscious choice do more work?

I think that Dining Services should make changing this system and the conveyor belt a priority. Options have been considered in the past, and I think these need to be revisited because it is something that needs to be done in order to make going completely trayless a possibility anyway.

While understandably that is not the most economical choice, especially in such dire financial times, I believe a new dish system should be deeply considered and is ultimately the next step in achieving an environmentally friendly, tray-free MP.