The responsible management of waste helps us to sustain and restore our natural resources and the communities in which we live and work. University of Minnesota Dining Services is committed to minimizing our environmental footprint by promoting and practicing waste reduction, reuse and recycling in all of our operations.
The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that over 40% of food produced in the United States is thrown away, leading to:
- Production of methane gas, a potent greenhouse gas with 21 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide.
- Hunger in America. One in six Americans go hungry every day. If we reduced our waste by 15%, over 25 million people could be fed.
- Wasted food costs the US 25% of our freshwater resources, 4% of US Oil Consumption, 33 Million Tons of Landfill Waste.
Through our Food Management Processes, University of Minnesota Dining Services reduces food production waste through efficient inventory and recipe production methods and by measuring, tracking and analyzing food production and service waste.
Each semester, University of Minnesota Dining Services conducts a post-production consumer plate waste audit within all seven residential restaurants measuring consumer (edible) food waste and overall plate waste, which includes edible food waste plus paper products, beverages and inedible food such as banana peels. This activity not only provides insight to our campuses food waste behaviors, but also helps raise awareness to one area of our nation's food waste issues. See below for this semester's results:
*please note Plate Waste is defined as all waste including edible food waste, in-edible food such as banana peels, napkins or other paper products and beverage.
University of Minnesota Dining Services has partnered with the Food Recovery Network, to help conduct Food Recovery from several campus dining locations including: Coffman Minnesota Marketplace, Carlson Food Court, our Residential Restaurants and TCF Bank Stadium. Recovered food is distributed throughout our community to those in need via Urban Ventures and Loaves and Fishes. To date, University of Minnesota Dining Services has recovered 7,845 lbs. of excess food.
University of Minnesota Dining Services has converted approximately 75% of all packaging to compostable products including napkins, silverware, plates, cups and grab & go containers. Compostable packaging takes on average 40-65 days to break down in commercial compost piles and limits the amount of waste sent to trash incinerators.
University of Minnesota Dining Services partners with Sanimax to recycle all used fryer oil from dining locations. Sanimax reuses oil to create products like high quality animal feed, lubricants and clean burning biodiesel. An average of 41,585 pounds of fryer oil is recycled from University of Minnesota Dining Services locations every year.
University of Minnesota Dining Services collects both pre and post-consumer food waste and compostable packaging across campus from over 78% of our dining locations, including all seven residential restaurants, all major food courts, several small retail outlets, the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum and TCF Bank Stadium. On average over 1,080,000 pounds of organics are collected from our dining locations. Organics collected from campus are hauled to the Brooklyn Transfer Station and finally to SET Organics in Rosemount, Minnesota, where an aerobic composting system is used to produce a nutrient rich mulch which is sold to businesses and by retail through the Mulch Store.
Reusable Mug and To-Go Containers
To reduce waste, University of Minnesota Dining Services offers reusable mugs and to-go containers at retail locations on campus. Coffee cafes sell reusable cups and mugs as well as offer a $0.10 discount in lieu of a paper cup. Over 6,000 customers use reusable mugs annually. Additionally, Bistro West Restaurant, the Continuing Education and Conference Café and all Residential Restaurants offer reusable to-go containers for sale to provide an alternative solution to traditional disposable containers.
Choose, reUse & Win
Americans throw away 25 billion disposable cups per year. That's enough to circle the world 436 times. The Choose, ReUse & Win program allows students to decrease the number of single-use cups being landfilled by encouraging the use of reusable beverage containers. Through collaboration with Cupanion, a variety of student groups and university departments, University of Minnesota Dining Services has integrated a program into campus life using a smart phone app, barcode stickers, and reusable beverage containers to track frequency of use. Each time a customer fills and scans their barcode sticker on campus, they earn points towards a reward. Rewards may include food and drink prizes as well as random rewards throughout the year from sponsors. Available reuse stations include all locations offering drip coffee and/or fountain drinks, for example: Caribou, Starbucks, Coffman Marketplace and more. Students can purchase the barcode stickers at Coffman Marketplace, Carlson Food Court and Terrace Cafe, U of M Bookstores and the following SUA locations: Gopher Express, Gopher Express West, Goldy's Gameroom and the Gopher Spot. By encouraging students to reuse, University of Minnesota Dining Services hopes to bring awareness to the extent of single use cup landfilling and encourage our customers to make choices that will help reduce waste.