Monday, April 12, 2010

Behind The Kitchen Door Series: Dishwashing and Reusable Glasses

When I first started working at my school kitchen, we were already using reusable plates, some utensils, and coffee cups.  I advocated for a few other items that were added this year - soupspoons, soup bowls, and glasses.  It makes financial sense – with 500 people going through the cafeteria each day, the amount we spend on paper cups easily justifies the cost of glasses and washing them.  The biggest problem to adding any more reusable items to our load is space and labor.  If one or two members of the kitchen crew are out sick one day, we have disposable items ready.    

Right now only the last of our five lunch periods uses glasses.  We have ten minutes in between each lunch period, and that’s simply not enough time to deal with glasses while setting up for the next meal.  During our last lunch, using glasses saves about 150 paper cups each day.  That’s 750 each week or 27,000 for the school year.

While I'm no expert on environmental science, the environmental cost of running our commercial dishwasher a few extra times each day to save 150 paper cups from a landfill makes sense to me.  We use a dishwashing system that "reduces environmental impact" according to the company's website.  Our dishwasher system technician happened to stop by today so I asked him for some details and learned quite a few things: the detergent we use is low in phosphates and BPA, and the system minimized water use.  (In fact, speaking to him I realized I should learn more about my kitchen's dishwashing system and its environmental impact.  I will put up a post about the details later.)   

Getting glasses into our cafeteria wasn’t as easy.  People objected to the extra labor it would involve.  To make this possible, I worked with five teachers on lunch duty, one for each day of the week, to set out the glasses and supervise the collection of them at the end of lunch.  With teacher help, our kitchen needed only to run the glasses through the dishwasher and cart them away.  That’s about ten minutes of extra work for one person. 

Our commercial dishwasher isn’t like a home dishwasher.  One load of dishes through our commercial dishwasher takes less than a minute to wash and sanitize.  Dishes come out of the machine hot but still damp, and they need to sit for about 5 minutes to air dry.  Space is limited when we run the dishwasher load after load.  Each day we go through dozens of loads.



  1. This is actually a very interesting topic. We can preach all we want about serving better foods and creating an overall healthier kitchen attitude, but until we (the general public) can truly understand what this involves, we won't commit the resources. (Well, I will, but even though I pay huge school taxes, I don't think mine alone will cover the costs, lol!)

  2. Good Post! Very informative, glad that you are going to continue writing things like this!

    Commercial Dishwasher