Program keeps food waste from going to waste

TOWSON, Md. (Oct. 18, 2010)—The core of an apple. The crust of a sandwich. The peel of a banana. Food waste is responsible for a staggering percentage of solid waste nationwide, and university dining halls are no exception. Chartwells, TU's dining service, estimates that last year nearly 40 tons of food waste from TU dining halls went to local landfills. But that number is now decreasing thanks to a composting program in Newell Dining Hall.

The program began this September when the university contracted with Waste Neutral Group, a local firm that hauls and composts food waste. The process is simple: when diners finish a meal, they place their trays—leftovers and all—on a belt that circulates to the wash area. Employees intercept the trays and sort the materials. Plates, glasses and silverware go to the dishwasher; manmade plastics such as straws and lids go to the trash or recycling; food waste and natural items like paper napkins go into a composting bag. When the bag is full, it’s placed into a designated food waste dumpster, which is emptied by Waste Neutral three times a week.

“We’ve been talking about composting for years,” says John Brady, director of operations for Chartwells at Towson. “We knew the students were interested in it and the administration wanted it, but we didn’t have a way to make the actual process work on campus. With Waste Neutral, the food waste is taken off-campus, so it’s a perfect fit. Things are going great.”

Brady estimates that about 4,000 pounds of food waste have been composted during the program's first six weeks. If the program continues to be successful, it will likely be expanded to other campus dining facilities next year.

“We wanted to test it first in Newell to get things going, and then we’ll look to implement the program in the all-you-can-eat facility in West Village Commons opening this August,” Brady says. “If things continue to go well, we’ll incorporate it in the Glen Dining Hall too.”

In addition to reducing the university’s solid waste tonnage—and increasing TU's recycling percentage— there's one other benefit to composting. For every ton of food waste collected, Waste Neutral will provide the university with 40 pounds of compost to be used in campus landscaping.

TU's new composting program is the latest in a series of environmentally conscious initiatives, from campus-wide single-stream recycling to a comprehensive green building and smart growth plan. Visit the TU Go Green website for more information.






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