Compostable paper products appear in Brooks for a week after dishwasher breaks down

Students who ate at Brooks Dining Hall any time during the week of Feb. 10, found the dining hall full of paper, compostable products instead of silverware, plates and glasses that are normally found under the food stations.

During dinner hours Monday, Feb. 11, the dishwasher in the back of Brooks broke down, forcing staff to set out compostable utensils, replacing the normal dishes, for the span of the week until it was repaired.

The problem was announced to students through a Facebook and Instagram post from Allegheny College Dining Services.

“The dishwasher is down until further notice,” the post read. “Because of this, we will be using compostable paper products. DM us if you have any questions regarding this transition.”

Director of Board Operations Stephanie Lang, explained that the temporary usage of paper products was a way to do what they could to preserve the dishwasher until it could be fixed.

“It’s hard to put into words, but basically the conveyor belt that moves the dishes through the dishwasher fell off,” Lang said. “The metal that connects to it is all warped and it can’t move, or it’ll blow, and then we’d have to buy a whole new one, which is really expensive.”

Lang said employees had no clear timeline of when the dishwasher would be fixed, and that Physical Plant had to be given time to repair it.

“The dishwasher is a mechanical piece of equipment with hundreds of moving pieces and parts,” said Brian Gillette, director of Physical Plant. “These parts can and do break from time to time, (but) we do our best to avoid these types of problems with proper care.”

Gillette said Parkhurst takes great care of the machine, but sometimes, the technology fails.

“It is by and large a very reliable piece of equipment,” Gillette said. “The staff who maintain the dish machine and the Parkhurst staff who operate the dish machine are fully aware of its importance to our food service operation. They take great care to ensure it is cared for and operated properly.”

Lang explained that for a few days, there were still some regular plates being set out, but as of Wednesday, Feb. 13, at 1 p.m., everything was switched over to the compostable products.

“It was mainly because we were waiting on a shipment from our paper suppliers,” Lang said. “We had enough of everything else, but we needed more paper plates.”

Yvonne Longstreth, Brooks greeter, said everyone who worked or ate at Brooks had to deal with the situation as best they could for the week.

“A lot of students have expressed that they feel sorry for us, with all the extra work we now have to do because of it,” Longstreth said. “Most just feel bad, though we have had some complaints. But there’s not much we can do. It broke, so we’re just doing the best that we can.”

Lang said having the compostable products was helpful; however, there was still a significant amount of extra work for employees.

“Even though we don’t have to wash those dishes, every mixing bowl, every pot and pan, they all have to be hand washed,” Lang said. “That makes it a lot harder for the staff even with the compostable products.”

Lang expressed how inconvenient the situation was for Parkhurst employees.

“It stinks, it’s a very hard situation,” Lang said. “It’s extremely difficult for the staff to have all this extra work now during this time period. We have had a bit of negative feedback from some students but the situation is out of our hands, and it’s out of Physical Plant’s hands. We just have to roll with it, because students need to eat. It could be weeks before the dishwasher’s back up, so we’re just doing the best that we can.”

As of Feb. 14, the dishwasher has been fixed and is operational again.