Trayless Dining

Trayless dining helps reduce waste, conserve water, and save energy. Without trays, less uneaten food is discarded each day. Water and energy are saved by not having to wash trays. UGA's five dining commons have practiced trayless dining since 2015 in partnership with the Office of Sustainability. 

After studying the impact of trayless dining, UGA Dining Services took a big step to reduce waste by removing trays from their five dining commons. The department worked with the UGA Office of Sustainability to collect data during a two-week test period. Snelling Dining Commons was set as the control. During the test’s first week, trays were provided in Snelling as normal. The plate waste that came through the tray return was measured by volume and weight. During the second week, trays were removed from Snelling and the same measurements were obtained. The water meter was also monitored to see how water usage would be affected with no trays to wash.

Benefits include:

  • 26.7 percent reduction in plate waste
  • 16.4 percent reduction in water usage during the week without trays
  • 107,142 pounds of food saved per semester across all dining commons
  • 16,550 gallons of water saved per semester across all dining commons

Benefits of Trayless Dining Infographic. Benefits include saving 107,142 lbs. of food and 16,550 gallons of water in a semester.


UGA Dining's Registered Dietitian also worked with professors within the College of Public Health at the University of Georgia and at Wake Forest to assess the impact of trayless dining on food choices of university students. Their research found that without trays students chose fewer beverages, decreased the amount of plate waste, while still choosing salads in the same amount.

Rajbhandari-Thapa J, Ingerson K, Lewis KH. Impact of trayless dining intervention on food choices of university students. Arch Public Health. 2018 Sep 24;76:61. doi: 10.1186/s13690-018-0301-5. PMID: 30258630; PMCID: PMC6151908.