Rutgers University dining halls are producing more and more waste each year. Although these numbers are on the rise, Rutgers has taken numerous actions to try to maintain a consistent or declining rate of waste.
In 2007, Rutgers partnered with a local farm to dispose of waste by feeding it to farm animals such as hogs and cattle. Pinter Farms takes approximately 1.125 tons per day of waste. This partnership gives Rutgers University a savings of 50%. Pinter chargers $30 per ton to haul the waste just 15 miles to where the farm is located, while landfill disposal can spike up to $60 per ton. This vast difference saves Rutgers Dining Services over $100,000 in hauling fees. Although refrigeration costs and other utilities associated with waste maintenance are increased, labor and storage space needed for waste disposal to landfills are decreased drastically. Feeding the waste to farm animals also has great environmental impacts. Greenhouse gasses, such as methane, are protected from entering landfill disposal. For those that aren’t familiar with greenhouse gasses, these emit radiation into the atmosphere, proven to increase the temperature of the earth. Methane is one of the primary greenhouse gasses. This responsible form of food planning has global implications, and can serve as a proven method to other organizations with high food waste disposal costs.
A more recent pilot program taking place in the Nielson Dining Hall on Cook Campus is the exploration of tray removal. The logic behind this: with a tray, a student can carry much more food, therefore creating more waste. With no tray, a student is forced to carry 2 or even just 1 plate of food, forcing the student to go for another round if he/she is hungry after the first round of plates. Eliminating trays could have a financial impact on dining services. No trays mean no cleaning of them, reducing cleaning and water costs. But from my recent experiences, I don’t know if this is the best method. For example, on my first trip to Nielson since the nixing I think I had more food waste than if I had a tray. Having no tray mean stocking up on as much food as I could fit in a plate, both horizontally and vertically. My plate must have weighed 6 or 7 pounds. The result: I wasted more food than what I would have wasted with a tray. Many others have said they’ve reduced the amount of their waste. Perhaps there is a mixed crowd on the issue, and it could lean either way. But the fact that cleaning and water costs decline either way is a positive. Regardless, dining services will adjust this program based on feedback from students and cost saving measures.