Food waste is reduced by 25 to 30 percent per person when colleges and universities stop using trays in their dining halls. That's the conclusion of a study of trayless dining conducted in 2008 by Aramark Higher Education.

The study measured food waste from 186,000 meals served at 25 institutions during the 2008 school year. On days that trays were not used, the schools generated 11,505 fewer pounds of waste — 1.2 ounces to 1.8 ounces per person per meal.

The findings also indicated that to wash a tray, the colleges and universities typically used one-third to one-half gallon of water. Eliminating the trays reduces water consumption.

Despite the benefits gained from eliminating trays, the study noted that many campuses are reluctant to do it. "They believe customers would be inconvenienced, complaints would increase, and the administration would be criticized," the report says.

However, a survey of more than 92,000 students, faculty and staff at 300 institutions found that 79 percent would accept the elimination of trays.