What is UCSB Residential Dining Doing about Food Waste?

December 5, 2016

This week's post comes from ES Intern Alysia Humm. Alysia shares Residential Dining's composting history.

Every day in the dining commons hundreds of students set their dishes onto the carousel where all cups, plates, disposable ware, and food scraps are whisked away into the kitchens. Not a second thought is given as to what happens after you lose sight of your dishes, but nevertheless, a very important process begins. 100% of pre and post-consumer food waste is composted. Such items include food waste, liquids, disposable ware like napkins, fry boats and more are collected by the workers in the kitchen and placed along with all the pre-consumer food waste, such as banana peels and avocado pits, into green bins. These bins when full are then taken and placed into a food compactor which will then be picked up once a week and transported by Marborg about 50 miles north to Engel and Gray, an industrial composting company in Santa Maria, California. Engel and Gray will then industrially compost all the food waste on site, and that compost will be sold and used as a soil amendment with many beneficial qualities.

            There are so many reasons to compost food waste. One reason is that otherwise, food waste goes into the trash and into a landfill where it will be buried and compacted under mounds of trash and dirt where it will decompose anaerobically (or without oxygen).This anaerobic decomposition produces methane gas, one of the most potent greenhouse gasses that are contributing to global warming. Another reason is that the Tajiguas Landfill (Santa Barbara County’s landfill) is almost at capacity with about ten years left before it will need to be retired and there is no current solution to where the county will send its food waste after that occurs. Landfills, in general, pollute and degrade the land, air, and water. Last but not least compost used as a soil amendment will not only give the soil back the nutrients it used up to grow that food, it will decrease the need for fertilizers and pesticides. By composting 100% of pre and post-consumer food waste from the dining services UCSB is clearly doing it right. 

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