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Tray Service

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Design Guidance

Overall Strategies

Trays, cutlery and plates can be either reusable or compostable and biodegradable, and each option has advantages and disadvantages. Reusable serviceware keeps material out of the waste stream and prevents the overuse of plastic which does not decompose, however it also requires energy- and water-intensive machinery to clean and sterilize. The cleaning equipment must be planned out carefully as it requires significant floor area. Compostable and biodegradable serviceware, however, does not require the cleaning equipment and can be discarded after single use with little adverse effect on the environment. Plates, cups, and cutlery can be plant-based in lieu of plastic, and trays can be made of heavy unbleached paperboard. These options require planned storage for inventory since they cannot be reused, and though biodegradable they do increase the overall waste stream.

Best Practices

  • Using reusable trays and serviceware minimizes waste, but they require hot water and soap to clean and sterilize.
  • Use biodegradable alternatives to plastic if using disposable take-out containers, flatware, and plates.
  • Serve condiments via large dispensers and small recyclable cups to reduce waste and support buying condiments in bulk.

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EB = Existing BuildingsNC = New Construction and Major Renovation

Federal Requirements

Guiding Principles

  • Recycled Content ( Guiding Principles [EB, NC])
    Section: V. Reduce Environmental Impact of Materials

    Per Section 6002 of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), for EPA-designated products, specify products meeting or exceeding EPA's recycled content recommendations. For other products, specify materials with recycled content when practicable. If EPA-designated products meet performance requirements and are available at a reasonable cost, a preference for purchasing them shall be included in all solicitations relevant to construction, operation, maintenance of or use in the building. EPA's recycled content product designations and recycled content recommendations are available on EPA's Comprehensive Procurement Guideline website.

  • Waste and Materials Management ( Guiding Principles [NC])
    Section: V. Reduce Environmental Impact of Materials

    Incorporate adequate space, equipment, and transport accommodations for recycling in the building design. During a project's planning stage, identify local recycling and salvage operations that could process site-related construction and demolition materials. During construction, recycle or salvage at least 50 percent of the non-hazardous construction, demolition and land clearing materials, excluding soil, where markets or onsite recycling opportunities exist. Provide salvage, reuse and recycling services for waste generated from major V. Reduce Environmental Impact of Materials renovations, where markets or onsite recycling opportunities exist.

  • Material Content and Performance ( Guiding Principles [EB])
    Section: V. Reduce the Environmental Impact of Materials

    From the Guiding Principles for EB: Procure construction materials, products, and supplies that have a “lesser or reduced effect on human health and the environment over their life cycle when compared with competing products or services that serve the same purpose”, including:
    (i) “Use Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) section 6002 compliant products that meet or exceed EPA’s recycled content recommendations for building construction, modifications, operations, and maintenance.”
    (ii) “Per section 9002 of the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act (FSRIA), for USDA-designated products, use products with the highest content level per USDA’s biobased content recommendations.”
    (iii) “Purchase products that meet Federally Recommended Specifications, Standards and Ecolabels or are on the Federal Green Procurement Compilation.”
    (iv) Eliminate, to the maximum extent practicable, “ozone depleting compounds and high global warming potential (GWP) chemicals where EPA’s SNAP has identified acceptable substitutes or where other environmentally preferable products are available” during construction, repair, or replacement at the end of life.
    Determining Compliance: “Procure products that meet the following requirements where applicable: (A) RCRA section 6002, and (B) FSRIA section 9002, and (C) Federally Recommended Specifications, Standards and Ecolabels or are on the Federal Green Procurement Compilation for other green products, as appropriate, and (D) Avoid ozone depleting compounds and high GWP chemicals.”

  • Waste Diversion ( Guiding Principles [NC])
    Section: V. Reduce the Environmental Impact of Materials

    From the Guiding Principles for NC: “Incorporate appropriate space, equipment, and transport accommodations for collection, storage, and staging of recyclable and, as appropriate, compostable materials in building design, construction, renovation, and operation. During construction, where markets or on-site recycling exist, divert at least 50% (by weight) of construction and demolition materials, excluding land clearing debris and material used as alternative daily cover, from landfills. Maximize reuse or recycling of building materials, products, and supplies wherever possible. Provide reuse and recycling services, including composting, for building occupants, where markets or on-site recycling exist, and divert at least 50% of non-hazardous and non-construction related materials (by weight), from landfills.”
    Determining Compliance: “Where markets exist, provide reuse and recycling services for building occupants and divert at least 50% of non-hazardous, nonconstruction related materials from landfills.”

  • Waste Diversion ( Guiding Principles [EB])
    Section: V. Reduce the Environmental Impact of Materials

    From the Guiding Principles for EB: “During alteration and repair projects, where markets or on-site recycling exist, divert at least 50% (by weight) of construction and demolition materials, excluding land clearing debris and material used as alternative daily cover, from landfills. Provide reuse and recycling services, including composting, for building occupants where markets or on-site recycling exist, and divert at least 50% of non-hazardous and non-construction related materials (by weight) from landfills. Provide salvage, reuse, and recycling services for waste generated from building operations, maintenance, repair and minor renovations, and discarded furnishings, equipment, and property.”
    Determining Compliance: “Where markets exist, provide reuse and recycling services for building occupants and divert at least 50% of non-hazardous nonconstruction related materials from landfills”