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Reusable plate program ends in Sayles Cafe

Starting winter term, Sayles Cafe decided to temporarily halt the reusable plates program, which was implemented last fall, because nearly 500 of the original 550 plates have not been returned. An all-campus email was sent out on Jan. 11, asking students to return the missing plates and bowls, but for the foreseeable future Sayles “to-stay” orders will be served in plastic baskets with a compostable lining.

Shanna Lindelien, retail manager for Bon Appetit, said that “out of the 550 plates that we ordered we currently have 50 on hand, and we are also missing most of our bowls.”

Last fall, Sayles Cafe implemented a reusable plate, bowl, and mug program to reduce waste, as the Cafe previously used compostable clamshells and plates for all orders. Students who placed “to-stay” orders were served food on plastic plates and asked to return them to a bin after use.

“We noticed pretty much from the beginning, that week after week there were less and less plates returned. We were able to get some back after the Carleton Garage Sale,” said Lindelien, after people “returned them there, and the garage sale let us know and we went to pick them up, but we’re still not getting all of them back.”

According to Emma Link ’18, who was on a Students for the Protection of the Environment (SOPE) task force devoted to the reusable plate program, Sayles Cafe “decided to start using the baskets over winter break when they were able to count exactly how many plates were missing.”

Although it is unclear where exactly the plates have gone, Lindelien said that “I think they were probably left in dorms or houses.” Facilities came at the end of the term and gave the plates to the garage sale.

Link stated that she “returned four plates found in various locations, like the Sevy and Burton lounges.”

 Sayles is now serving “to-stay” orders in reusable plastic baskets; there was no additional cost to switch to the baskets.
“We have a ton of baskets that we had already had in our possession, so it really didn’t cost anything to switch, because we have liners already that we use in our box lunches, so there’s really not additional cost,” said Lindelien.

“The liners in the baskets are compostable, so it’s really not any different, there’s no impact environmentally, other than adding to a compost. They’re washed exactly the same way the plates are,” she added.

Link stated that “SOPE would prefer a plate program over the baskets because with the baskets, you have to use a liner and create some compostable waste, and having no waste would be preferable.”

Both Bon Appetit and SOPE were hopeful that the baskets would be returned regularly.

“I doubt that the baskets will be taken because they are not really effective to eat off of unless you are eating fried food,” said Link.
It is unclear if any more plates have been returned after the all-campus email, but Lindelien said that “we’d like to continue with the bowls, but if we don’t get them back… I’ve got to find another way. It’s a little disheartening, because it’s a great program, and we were really excited to do it. The baskets work right now, but it’s really up to the students. I’m positive, though, we’re going to find a solution.”

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