The University of Maryland is amending a carryout-only policy in campus dining, returning to the standard formula of dine-in service. The move comes as campus operations increasingly return to normalcy from policies put in place during the COVID-19 pandemic, including the use of disposable carryout containers in dining halls.
As reported by Maryland's student publication, The Diamondback, the decision to revert to dining in comes two weeks into the spring semester that began with carryout-only in university dining halls. University of Maryland dining services has since ended disposable carryout options entirely and reverted to standard dine-in only service.
The initial reason behind the then temporary carryout-only policy was a surge in COVID-19 cases at the end of the spring semester last year. The University Health Center requested that dining halls shift to carryout only to help curb infections.
But among other reasons, the cost of the carryout containers has brought an end to the policy. That's according to Dining Services spokesperson Bart Hipple, who adds that the containers also hamper the university's goal of being a carbon neutral campus by 2025, given the waste that the disposable containers generate.
For the first two weeks of the semester alone -- when carryout was the only option -- Hipple told The Diamondback that carryout supplies cost the university approximately $92,000. Dining Services reported having enough carryout containers for a short period of time but would not be able to financially support carryout-only dining for an entire semester.
Additionally, university dining services doesn’t have a dedicated portion of its budget for carryout containers. This means that when the department needs to pay for additional containers, it has to use funds allocated to other parts of its budget.
“We ended up operating at a loss for a while,” said Hipple in a statement to The Diamondback. “We would have had to go into our funds we have set aside for things like the new dining hall and improvements.”
The university's newly inaugurated president announced last year that the campus' goal is to be carbon neutral by 2025. Hipple says that carryout containers would inhibit this, as they create a lot of waste. All of the containers students throw away, despite being made of cardboard, will end up in a landfill.
Compare that to the standard dine-in formula, where extra trash comes back on a tray return to be either composted or recycled. Maryland Dining Services director Colleen Wright-Riva told The Diamondback that when the school offers carryout, roughly 6 million pieces of packaging are used each year.