Everyday, UCSB campus dining commons dispose of hordes of untouched food. De La Guerra Dining Commons (DLG) is taking an initiative to reduce waste by embarking on a 90-day trial program. Instead of throwing away food in non-biodegradableÂ black bags into the monstrous compactor behind the facility, leftover food will be separated into green trash cans to be converted into compost.
According to Cresencio Acevedo, DLG’s Production Manager, UCSB has always been environmentally conscious, especially through the dining commons. Previous attempts to become more environmentally friendly included separating green waste from vegetable preparation for compost and recycling used oil.
This new program gives the green light to put all separated food waste in biodegradable white bags for compost. Any food, napkins, and coffee sticks are put into green cans. Items such as latex and vinyl gloves, chopsticks, paper boats (used for hamburgers and fries), cracker wrappers, paper cups, and teabags are thrown in black trash bags. “We’re trying to keep the waste as clean as possible,” said Acevedo, “but processing the waste may be a challenge for workers [since] it’s more separating.” Much of the food that goes through the tray-veyor is mixed in with non-compost material, requiring more discipline and attention from workers to separate everything correctly.
Short term effects of this program include a reduction in DLG’s waste bill from Marborg Industries, its waste management provider. According to Acevedo, DLG is charged based on the weight of the garbage. He said that since the pilot program, DLG has cut down from three pick-up days to just one per week, saving money and being more eco-friendly.
The “Tray-less Challenge” is another of the dining commons, efforts toward sustainability. Signs posted near the tray cubbies encourage students to skip the tray in order to save water used by the dish machine. The challenge also encourages students to take less food and thus helps diminish food waste. “We see a lot of kids participating and its very encouraging,” said Acevedo.
If the pilot program proves to be successful after the trial period, it will be adopted by all of UCSB’s dining commons. This trial allows for the waste management company and DLG to work out kinks in the program. Acevedo said if the program succeeds, there will be more cost and energy saving methods to help conserve energy after late night shifts.”
“Maybe someday we can turn the [dish] machine off if students wouldn’t take so much food. The machine uses alot of energy.”
The “Tray-less Challenge,” according to Acevedo, has become permanent at UC Riverside. Recently, Portola and Ortega dining commons have tried this by going tray-less for a day. “Maybe the future is coming sooner,” said Acevedo.
Student awareness and education of the waste generated and method of disposal can help support DLG’s goal toward sustainability. Students that take only what they need and use less dishes would help tremendously cut down waste and save energy.