Green New Meal Deal: Metz battles increased student food waste
"Weigh the Waste" board located in Hamilton Center. (Taken by Mark McDermott.)

Green New Meal Deal: Metz battles increased student food waste

Though Palm Court has precedent to the esteemed “Center of the Universe” title, the second closest candidate for such a prestigious position is the Hamilton “Ham” Center—a staple in student life and on-campus dining. In spite of its importance, upwards of 120 lbs. of Metz meals are untouched per day—confined to styrofoam takeout containers and stuffed in the trash.

In an interview conducted with Metz Chef Manager Bill Moore—having been with the company for 15 years, and having spent 9 of those years serving New College—Moore noted the uptick in student waste since Metz made the switch to its “All You Care to Eat” buffet program in the Fall 2021 semester, and the issue has only gotten worse since then.

“When we were retail, the waste wasn’t as bad,” Moore recounted.

According to Moore, Hamilton Center’s garbage is collected several times a day and—having gone through it himself—many of the styrofoam takeout containers from Metz were full of uneaten food.

Moore continued to expound on possible reasons for the excess of food waste. 

“What we’re seeing is [that] the custodian of this facility can’t even lift the garbage cans anymore because students are taking more on their plates than they really should,” Moore said. “It’s not that I think students want to throw food away, I just think some of them end up taking a little bit too much than what they thought they were going to eat, or some don’t want to get back in line so they figure out how to get everything in one go.”

Moore also claims that the lowest amount of waste in a day during the Fall 2022 semester has been 78 lbs, and it’s only gotten much worse. 

“We’re wasting anywhere from 100 to 112 lbs of food a day,” Moore said. “I want students to eat as much as they want, but do it conservatively so we’re not throwing food away. We’re trying to think of ways to reduce the waste.”

In addition to being a waste of food, the discarded styrofoam containers are non-biodegradable and leave behind harmful microplastics—something at-odds with New College’s historically eco-friendly campus infrastructure.

Noting this, Moore has been working with on-campus student organizations—namely the Council of Green Affairs (CGA)—to mitigate the abundant waste. One solution endorsed by both the Metz staff and CGA is renting a reusable green take-out container.

Recounting the Food Waste Event held by the CGA on Jan. 29, which included discussion of composting opportunities on campus and the upcoming Bulk Bar, Moore revealed that the joint efforts of Metz and CGA led to 27 green containers being sold that evening.

“They pay $10 for the green container, they bring the rinsed-out container back here, we give them a sanitized, clean one, they fill up their food and that alleviates the styrofoam.” Moore said.. “At the end of your four years, you can bring that green container back and get your $10 back. You can use your flex dollars for that $10 purchase.”

A Catalyst reporter had the opportunity to attend Metz’ Food Service Committee Meeting on Feb. 23. During this meeting, Moore stated that he intends to host another drive for green containers during Earth Week.

During the Fall 2022 semester, an ornate “Weigh the Waste” whiteboard hung over one of the trash cans in the Hamilton Center, displaying the amount of student waste produced each day until Nov. 17,  when it stopped receiving updates.. 

“We stopped using it because every day, it was like a hundred pounds,” Moore said.

With that said, Moore is interested in reincorporating the Weigh the Waste board and instead placing it near the entrance of the cafeteria. 

“When students walk in they’re gonna see that board, and not when they’re leaving,” he continued.

Additionally, Metz staff have taken to weighing pre-consumer waste and giving back what can be utilized for mulch to the campus’ Food Forest. Moore emphasized the degree to which he wants to be able to work with different on-campus environmental clubs and the student body in tackling this issue.

“When students come to me excited about things, I try my best to work with them,” Moore said. “That’s what I’m here for; I’m here for you guys.”

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