Since Sept. 1, Dining Services estimates that it lost $7765 in dishware, which represents between 75 and 100 percent of the new inventory purchased for this academic year across most categories of returnables.
Whitman’s Dining Hall lost $2783.40 in the form of 300 small plates, 485 bowls, 800 spoons, 350 knives, 300 soup spoons, 650 glasses and 350 trays. Dishware worth $3192.35 in the form of 216 glasses, 98 coffee cups, 88 soup cups, 190 plates, 202 salad bowls and 73 cereal bowls is missing from Driscoll Dining Hall. Mission lost $1789 in the form of 125 plates, 125 salad bowls, 96 small plates, 300 forks and 200 soup spoons.
These losses make it difficult for Dining Services to maintain sustainable practices without running out of dishware at meals. This concern is more pressing than the monetary losses Dining Services incurs according to Gayle Donohue, assistant director of student dining.
“We budget for this every year, so the loss is not too bad,” Donohue said, “but I hope that with this campaign we’ll see that the amount we need to spend replacing dishes decreases every year.”
Donohue said that this year’s losses are on par with what she would expect based on previous years. Last year, Dining Services ran a “Bring it Back” campaign at the end of the school year that retrieved a significant amount of the missing dishware.
Donohue hopes that a more focussed and continuous campaign will create a culture in which students return dishware they take out of the dining halls before dining services runs short.
“I’m an optimist. I think it’s an issue of publicity. We serve 1800 students every day, three times a day, and there’s a huge amount of service ware moving around involved in that. So all things considered I think we do pretty well,” Donohue said.
“But our students are busy, and every year you have 500 new students figuring out where and when they’re going to eat and how to return what they take. We have this great culture where students can take food out of our dining halls, but we just need to add to that culture that students bring service ware back to the dining halls,” Donohue said.
The loss of reusable dishware, however, makes it difficult for Dining Services to continue to provide plastic and metal returnables instead of cheaper, disposable plastic and paper options that have a more negative impact on the environment.
“The problem is that losing returnable service ware creates a need for us to go to more paper purchasing. A sustainable approach to dining is very important to us, and we work towards that goal. One part of us wants to be sustainable, but it’s hard to justify spending thousands on dishes that don’t come back to us,” Donohue said.
The College Council (CC) Dining Services Committee and CC as a whole plan to launch a campaign to raise awareness about this issue. Dining Services, per CC’s recommendation, added four new returnables bins and used student input to relocate some near points of exit and kitchens where they might be better utilized. Housing coordinators and the custodial staff are also helping to make sure dishes from dorms are returned to dining halls.
Director of Security Dave Boyer said that Campus Safety and Security had no plans to prevent students from taking dishware out of the dining halls or to retrieve the missing returnables, but he plans to meet with Director of Dining Services Bob Volpi to discuss the issue later this week.
“Custodial staff finds a great number of returnables on a daily basis. They do a great job getting these items back in the hands of Dining Services. This helps not only Dining out but us as well. Leaving dirty dishes in dorms and common spaces makes for a smelly environment and attracts pests, so it’s in our best interest to get them either out of there or to the returnable pick up locations close by,” Dan Levering, assistant director for custodial services and special events, said.
Despite the loss of dishware, Dining Services has not called for a change in the College’s policy of letting students take food out of the dining halls.
“We’re so pro-student here,” Donohue said. “Everything we do has evolved from that give-and-take culture. We truly want to give students what they need when they need it. For a lot of students, being able to eat in the solitude of the library or their rooms, or in class when they need to, is important. That’s a great thing we have that I think is different from a lot of other colleges. We just ask that students make an effort to give back what they take.”