According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Americans generate more than 34 million tons of food waste each year and food waste makes up 14 percent of the total municipal solid waste stream. Less than three percent of the 34 million tons of food waste generated in 2010 was recovered and represents the single largest component reaching landfills and incinerators.
In order to get a clearer picture of what’s being thrown away on campus, a few West Virginia University departments are coordinating the first-ever dining waste audit at WVU dining facilities. The WVU sustainability program, Dining Services, and the Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design will conduct the audit March 5-9 in all residence hall dining facilities.
“Innovative partnerships and alliances for sustainability are being formed across WVU targeting a whole array of interests in harmony with our land grant mission,” said Clement Solomon, Director of Sustainability. “Our vision is the entire ‘campus as classroom.’ Not only does this initiative yield economic and environmental gains, it also furthers curricular and co-curricular learning interests.”
The audit will build upon activities already employed by dining halls on campus, such as trayless dining and the donation of leftover items to local non-profit organizations.
“The audit will provide a solid baseline to assess food waste from our dining halls, especially organic or compostable waste that could be diverted from landfills to productive use,” said Kathy Curtin, assistant director of Dining Services.
“Audit results will provide a deeper insight into our current practices where efficiencies can be improved and waste reduced substantially.”
“This is a great opportunity for students to become involved in helping to reduce the environmental impact of our campus activities,” said Tim Phipps, associate dean for research in the Davis College.
“In addition, we will be looking at the feasibility of combining the wastes from our campus food system with the organic wastes generated on our local university farms to fuel a digester that could produce renewable energy and compost. I commend Dr. Solomon for his efforts in helping our campus to become a model for sustainable practices.”
Volunteers will assist diners when they clear their trays, directing items into compostable, recyclable, or disposable bins set up in halls for the audit. All items will be weighed to get a representation of what types and how much waste is generated in a typical week in campus dining halls. Volunteers can sign-up through the iServe website.
For more information on WVU’s sustainability efforts, go to: http://wecan.wvu.edu/
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