Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Enough Waste for an Elephant?!

 Enough Waste for an Elephant?!

 When you eat food from the dining hall, do you eat everything that you take? If not, what are the reasons for leaving that food on the plate? Is it because you didn’t like it? Or was it because you took too much and could not finish? No matter what the reason, food is left behind on plates every day, in every dining hall. How much waste on average is left unfinished? At Ithaca College, about 3,000 lbs a day! To put that number in perspective, 3,000 lbs is equivalent to the average weight of an elephant or whale! That’s a lot of waste!

Now don’t be mistaken, all 3,000 lbs of that waste is composted, and not “thrown away”. This is a common misconception. All pre- and post- consumer waste from the dining is composted every day. But, even though all waste generated from dining halls is composted, we are still working to reduce the amount of waste that is created.

Each year we strive to come up with new initiatives to try to reduce our waste. Last semester, you may have noticed myself or Jackie “weighing the waste” during lunch and dinner periods. This project was done in an effort to spread the word about composting in the dining halls and to see how much waste was generated during a typical lunch or dinner period. We had results ranging from as low as 40lbs to as high as 120lbs in just under 2 hours!

This year we have new initiatives to reduce waste for both pre- and post-consumer waste!

Pre-Consumer Waste:

This year, we have started a new program called LeanPath. This new system has all pre-consumer waste measured and labeled for the reason it was wasted. For example, before turkey breast from the deli can be composted, it must be weighed as 3 oz and labeled as “not fresh/cannot be served” as the reason for waste. Data is collected daily, and weekly reports are sent to the Dining Hall mangers. This analyzed data helps managers alter menu sizes, and employee behavior with the overall goal of reducing waste. 

Post-Consumer Waste:

Similar to our “Weigh the Waste” program last semester, we will be having CRT (Compost, Recycle, and Trash) station tutorials! In partnership with the Resource and Environmental Management Program (REMP), we will be “trash-copping” by the CRT stations in IC Square Food Court to show which items can be composted, recycled, or trashed! (Very few items should be going in the trash; you’d be surprised how many items on campus can be either composted or recycled). Feel free to ask questions about the CRT stations or composting and recycling in general. Prizes will be given to those who show their superior knowledge of composting and recycling! Don’t be shy when you see one of us-you could win an awesome prize!

So next time you are in the dining think about your contribution to the daily 3,000 lbs of waste. You can make a difference in the amount of waste that we generate, and put our “elephant” on a diet! 


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  1. Does the dining hall compost all waste generated or collected on campus? How does the dining hall account for waste disposed of in improper bins (i.e. compost items in the trash)?

  2. Hi Megan, Thanks for your comment!

    The Dining Halls compost ALL pre and post consumer waste. Ithaca College has a good relationship with Cayuga Compost, which has given us the ability to compost so much. Compost bins must have a contamination rate of 5% or less to be accepted by Cayuga Compost, or they must be thrown away (landfill). Ithaca Dining Services and the Resource and Environmental Management Program (REMP) on campus work very hard to educate our campus community about proper waste sorting. This is the only way we currently have to combat waste disposed in the wrong bin. For more information about waste sorting, you can visit REMP's website ithaca.edu/REMP or, for more information on compost, read one of our old blogs! http://icdiningsustainability.blogspot.com/2010/10/did-you-know-about-composting.html