Dining Services implements new technology to reduce waste

Students’ uneaten food may soon find its way into pigs’ bellies, thanks to efforts by Dining Services to reduce waste on campus.

Legia Abato, district marketing manager for Dining Services, said Dining Services is using a new machine called a pulper to help reduce the amount of waste. The pulper grinds and blends food scraps and other waste products and turns them into an organic compost material.

Dining Services is in the process of finding a pig farmer to take the material, which can be used as animal feed, Abato said.

Take-out containers made from sugarcane, cups made from corn and potato-based utensils are some of the other ways Dining Services has attempted to go green in the past year.

Abato said Sodexo also had sustainability in mind when construction began on the Brown-Lupton University Union.

“When we started planning to move into this building we wanted to continue that process, continue to be as environmentally friendly as possible,” Abato said.

In addition to the pulper, all of the tableware in Market Square is made of China so it can be washed and reused, Abato said.

Special napkin dispensers keep students from taking more than they need in an attempt to keep the use of paper materials to a minimum, Abato said.

“That’s one of the reasons we don’t have straws,” Abato said. “Straws are just another paper product.”

Ellen Schwaller, social justice educator for TCU, said although Sodexo has made a good initial effort to become more environmentally friendly, there is always room for improvement.

“If they wanted to, they could make large efforts to do things like buy produce from local farmers,” Schwaller said. “They could have more organic products. Those are all beneficial to the environment and also to our health.”

Abato said Sodexo’s efforts to go eco-friendly began as early as last fall.

In the Brown-Lupton Student Center, Sodexo implemented the use of biodegradable items made from renewable resources that were designed to break down easily in the environment, Abato said.

The food-based containers, cups and utensils were some of the eco-friendly items used to minimize harmful waste. These items are still used when students call in to-go orders at Market Square, Abato said.

Rick Flores, general manager for Dining Services, said Sodexo’s partnership with the university has been an important step in the right direction toward a more eco-friendly campus.

Students have also played a large role in helping their school go green this semester as the new meal program was designed to reduce the amount of waste, Flores said.

“We were using between 3,000 and 4,000 pieces of to-go ware in our operations almost on a daily basis,” Flores said. “We’ve reduced that considerably with the participation of students following what the program is.”