When Troy Barlow went to the Eatery in early October, he saw a stack of paper plates instead of the usual reusable ones. But he said it was a welcome change because he didn’t have to worry about finding leftover food on his plate.
Barlow, along with many other students, continued to use disposable plates every time he went to the Eatery for the next month or so. For about three weeks in October, the Eatery – Pitt’s main dining room – has stopped using reusable tableware and silverware because the dishwasher was off. Students dining at the Eatery ate their meals using paper plates, paper or plastic cups, and plastic utensils, raising concerns about sustainability.
While the dishwasher was fixed on October 25, the dining room was still not fully back to normal by November. Meredith Rosenberg, spokesperson for Compass Group, Pitt’s catering contractor, said the company took The Eatery’s dishwasher out of service for maintenance from October 4 to 24, and on November 3 said that Eatery would bring back reusable plates soon. But she did not explain why disposable plates were still in use.
“Although we have reintroduced the reusable cups, bowls and utensils, we are still using disposable plates, but we will be back to using the reusable very soon,” Rosenberg said.
But on November 5, The Pitt News found that most Eatery stations served reusable plates and bowls, but still used disposable utensils and paper cups.
The students said The Eatery faced other issues before Compass shut down the dishwasher. Barlow, a young math and economics student who eats at the Eatery once a day, said before the switch to disposables on October 4, he saw problems with the cleanliness of plates, cups and silverware . He said the dishes served to the students were not completely cleaned at the time.
“The plates sometimes had stains on them, the cups had stains on them,” Barlow said. “Sometimes it would be food. With the cups, sometimes, it would be white spots.
This resonated with other students complaints on social networks that a significant portion of the so-called clean dishes in the restaurant were covered in stains or had food encrusted on them. Rosenberg said no “used” dishes or plates were served to the restaurant’s students at any time.
“At no time did guests serve used dishes in the dining room,” said Rosenberg.
Danielle McDonald, a first-year bioengineering major, said she didn’t notice any issues, such as dirt, with reusable tableware and silverware before the temporary switch to plastic and paper products. McDonald said she tries to avoid eating at the Eatery whenever possible because she prefers to use her meal swaps.
“They’ve all been cleaned up,” McDonald said. “I felt safe using them. “
McDonald said one problem she saw was that silverware was often unavailable, especially commonly used utensils such as forks. But Barlow said the switch to disposable utensils has alleviated that problem.
“The big deal before was that you could never get silverware,” Barlow said. “They took a long time to go out, and when they did go out sometimes, they were dirty. So in this way, the plastic silverware was more practical.
McDonald said she was concerned that the use of disposables could increase the amount of waste produced at The Eatery.
“I feel like we really waste a lot on the plates and the cups and stuff,” McDonald said.
To deal with the further increase in waste, five additional trash cans and a recycling bin were seen by The Pitt News on October 20 in the area where students typically drop off their used dishes.
The Eatery has faced other challenges this year, according to McDonald’s. She said there was a sign on soft drink vending machines recently that explained that a carbon dioxide shortage was temporarily preventing the dining room from serving soda.
“It’s not a big deal for me, but they’re missing out on a lot of things, like drinks,” McDonald said. “Apparently there was a CO2 shortage or something, so they didn’t really have soda. Plus, I can never really have milk.
Rosenberg said the lack of available soda was due to a shortage of carbon dioxide delivery drivers.
“Our CO2 supplier was experiencing a shortage of delivery drivers, which was delaying the commissioning of the machines,” said Rosenberg. “We encourage all customers if they don’t see any of the self-service items they are looking for to seek help from a manager, supervisor or chef. We currently have no shortage of dairy products.
McDonald’s said she hopes to see the restaurant return to normal with reusable plates soon.
“If they could, I think they should definitely go back,” McDonald said.