News Date: 
Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Source: The Red and Black


September 9th, 2008

Many other campuses' dining halls are replacing plastic trays with paper to conserve water, but University Food Services hasn't made plans to completely switch.

"We use paper cups between 10 p.m. and 12 a.m. at Snelling (Dining Commons)," J. Michael Floyd, director of food services, said. "Now that we have moved to 24-hour service, we try to shut our dish washers down for a few hours to save water. Last year we saved 2.05 million gallons."

Though the paper products used at Snelling are non-recyclable, Food Services uses a pulping machine that lowers the amount of waste produced by about 70 percent, Floyd said.

"All paper products are made with some amount of wax so that they are able to hold water," Andrew Lentini, physical plant recycling coordinator, said. "But the wax makes them hard on the recycling process. So pulping their waste is really the best thing

Food Services can do, especially since other things go into the trash, like bits of food, ketchup packets and napkins."

It is one of the only practical solutions to the ecological problem, Letini said.

"(Food Services) could compost its materials if we had a municipal complex and if the cafeterias used corn starch or potato based materials," Lentini said. "However, since Athens-Clarke County doesn't currently provide a municipal complex, Food Services wouldn't have access to the extreme heat needed to compost waste."

Though disposable cups are a viable method of water conservation, some argue that water waste will continue to be an issue.

"All state and government agencies have been tasked to conserve water and so a lot have switched to disposable plates, cups and cutlery, said Suki Janssen, ACC recycling division's waste reduction manager." This is good for water conservation in the county, but water is still used somewhere down the line in the manufacturing of the cups."

Food Services reduces food waste by donating leftover food supplies to Full Plate, a food recovery program that operates in Athens and donates excess food from restaurants and schools to homeless individuals. The University stands as the top contributor. Beyond donations to Full Plate, Food Services does not have a need to combat food waste.

"Because of the type of service we provide - self service, serving stations - we find that most (students) consume all that they take," Floyd said.

Improvements in the county's waste management and recycling programs are necessary for the University to change, he said.

"At the moment, (ACC) is awaiting a permit to build a composting center for bio-solids and mulch. After that, we hope to grow into a center for composting food waste," said Janssen. "In the meantime, the University can improve its recycling program by adding more bins ... and starting an educational campaign. It would help to have all departments involved, from higher-ups like the president to the professors."