Plate Waste Reductions by Notre Dame Students

Author: Lisa Wenzel


Each time you return your tray to the dish line in the dining hall, give yourself a little cheer.  Over the past five years, waste among those eating at the dining hall has been reduced by an average of 1.93 ounces per student.  This is a savings of over 250,000 pounds from the measurement in 2008 or a half ton of food per day.   

Where do you see these results?

  • Approximately six semi-trucks worth of food waste are not put into the landfill
  • A tremendous amount of water is saved by not growing or producing this food.  This could equate to more than 6,000,000 gallons of water according to some studies which compares to five residence halls not taking a shower for a year. 
  • More food is available for hunger
  • Less fossil fuel is used in transportation

What could this equal –

  • Over 2,000,000 donuts
  • 1,570,000 Taco Bell crunchy tacos
  • 24 elephants
  • 1,100,000 Hamburgers
  • 540,000 Pizza Hut individual cheese pizzas

These savings are dramatic.  In 2008 the average plate waste was 5.02 ounces per tray.  This year the average was down to 3.09 ounces, calculated from 3.26 ounces at South Dining Hall and 2.60 ounces at North Dining Hall.  These measures have come from efforts of student volunteers from greeND who recently helped measure the tray waste in both the North and South Dining Halls.  Their efforts such as Waste Free Wednesday’s have driven educational efforts to encourage waste reduction. 

These changes in plate waste demonstrate the effect that individuals can have on curbing waste.  It is not only good for the environment, but also allows the funds that would otherwise be used purchasing the food that becomes trash to be used to purchase higher cost, higher demand items such as pot stickers, sliced apples, or flank steak.