But that strategy is the most economical solution to CDS' inability to use dishwashers due to the drought, said Mike Freeman, a UNC auxiliary services representative.
The University is able to save about 100,000 gallons of water per week by not using the dishwashers in Lenoir Dining Hall and Chase Hall, Freeman said.
The University might be saving water, but it is not saving money. In fact, CDS is spending an additional $5,000 per week to use styrofoam, Freeman said.
Freeman said CDS officials considered using paper plates but decided against it because paper is much more expensive than styrofoam.
Using glossy paper plates that are sturdy enough to hold liquid would cost roughly $20,000 more per week, Freeman said.
"We can't afford to work on paper," he said. "We can't afford $5,000 -- there's no way we could afford $20,000."
Inexpensive paper plates would cost closer to $10,000 more per week, but Freeman said many students would use two or three plates to make them sturdier, which would push the additional cost up to between $20,000 and $30,000 per week and triple the amount of waste.
But some students said that while they understand the University's plight, they believe there are better options available.
Senior Reena Arora, a political science major, said she is passionate about the fight to discontinue the use of styrofoam. "Who uses styrofoam in 2002? Everyone knows it's an environmental hazard."
Arora said she plans to create a student coalition to increase awareness of the harm styrofoam causes and to meet with CDS officials to discuss other options.
Arora suggested that funds could be diverted from elsewhere in the University to subsidize the cost of using paper plates. She said using paper plates would be more environmentally friendly because paper plates can be composted.
CDS has already increased the amount of money it is spending on waste collection because of the switch to styrofoam. CDS is spending an extra $1,000 to $1,500 per month to have garbage collected twice daily instead of once, he said.
Freeman said that if CDS was to raise the price of meal plans proportionately in order to make up for the losses incurred by using styrofoam, prices for meal plans would have to be raised $100 per semester, per plan.
But Freeman said it is unlikely that there will be any increase in the cost of meal plans due to water restrictions.
Senior Valerie Bruchon, a studio art major, said that she is sympathetic to the University's dilemma but that she hates to see the use of styrofoam because it takes so long to disintegrate. "Styrofoam is the anathema of the earth's well-being."
She said she understands the desire to conserve water but thinks the use of styrofoam is not the best option. "In the long term, I'm not sure it's more environmentally responsible than washing dishes."
Bruchon said she would like to bring her own plates to the dining hall.
But Freeman said students cannot bring plates into the dining halls because of standards set by the Department of Health and Human Services. He also said students would still wash those dishes, which would spread water usage around campus, rather than conserving water.
Freeman said he is still open to suggestions, and he said he hopes students will continue to help think of alternatives.
"We have thought long and hard about this from a business perspective and an environmental perspective."
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