Food Waste and Composting

Food waste is problematic for a number of reasons. It is estimated that 30 to 40 percent of the U.S. food supply ends up in landfills where it is the number one source of methane emissions. UM Dining has made a substantial reduction in overall food waste by drastically decreasing the amount of organic material that gets discarded and repurposing our food scraps into useful products such as soil amendments.

On Earth Day 2008, UM Dining rolled out a trayless dining initiative in an effort to curb food waste in our dining facilities. The project proved to be extremely successful, reducing post-consumer food waste by 62 percent. Unfortunately some food waste is unavoidable, especially in a large dining operation where the majority of our meals are prepared from scratch using fresh ingredients. We capture all of our pre- and post-consumer food waste and process it through a food pulper, which reduces solid waste volume by 88 percent. The pulper recycles the water it uses, making it 66 percent more efficient than traditional garbage disposals. The pulped food waste is then put into our Somat dehydrators, reducing waste volume by an additional 80 to 90 percent and transforming the waste into a light weight material. This material is then incorporated into the compost operations at a local farm and eventually returned to our gardens as a high-quality soil amendment. Coupled with our food waste reduction initiatives, our compost program helps divert thousands of pounds of methane producing food waste from the landfill every week.