"Plastic"ware Art

As part of our Curious Cornhuskers initiative, Luke Andersen, a senior environmental studies and psychology double major, asked The Daily Nebraskan, “Why does the new East Campus dining center use so much plasticware instead of silverware?”

Kathy Sildmets, manager of Catering and Dining for the East Campus Dining Center, said the dining center uses plasticware to allow students to take their food out of the dining hall.

“We’re an a la carte for breakfast and lunch, so that means people, including the students, can take their food out now,” she said. “We find that if we do have silverware out, it kind of disappears, and we don’t get it back.”

Andersen said he submitted the question because he heard other students talking about it, which led him to notice it as well. 

“They have metalware sometimes, but it’s always still next to the plasticware,” he said. “There’s never a time I’ve seen it where it’s only been the metalware out in the dining hall, so it’s usually just people taking the plasticware, using it, throwing it away and then leaving even if they are eating non-to-go food in the dining hall.”

Sildmets said there are no plans to change from plasticware to silverware for the food taken outside the dining hall, but it could inspire a conversation in the future. 

The plasticware is housed next to the silverware in the dining hall, and Andersen said he would recommend that the dining hall move the plasticware closer to the to-go food. However, Sildmets said the only way to ensure students eating in the dining hall didn’t use the plasticware would be to verbally tell them not to, which isn’t probable. 

“It’s very small; we’re much more compact,” she said. “There’s really nowhere else we can put this plasticware.”

While Andersen has noticed many environmental improvements at UNL, proving to him the university is making efforts to be more sustainable, he doesn’t agree with the use of plasticware in the dining hall. 

“I see East Campus as the environmental figurehead for campus because [the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources] is centered there and all these environmental majors,” he said. “[But] I haven’t seen any plasticware in any of the other dining halls.”