UW-Stout's dining service has been making an effort to be sustainable since the 1990's. During that decade, the university started recycling tin, glass, and plastic containers and worked to purchase products with minimal packaging. During 2010, Stout furthered its commitment to sustainability by beginning to compost food waste with their contracted waste hauler. As of 2013, the entire campus now composts, recycles, and uses 100% compostable packaging for prepared foods. The university also provides reusable to-go containers for students to get quick meals from the dining hall. Right now, UW-Stout is encouraging the purchase of local foods in order to reduce their carbon footprint.
Food Waste Prevention
For years, UW-Stout has used a food pulper in their dining operations, which allows leftover food to be drained of excess water and then used as much more efficient compost, while reducing the burden on the water treatment facility. When purchasing equipment, the university looks for energy efficiency and low water usage. The staff is required to record food waste, which provides them with a greater awareness of what they are throwing out. As a result, food waste as a percentage of purchased food is only between .6 and 2% of total food purchases. They have also done post consumer waste studies in the cafeterias and shared those results with diners to encourage more appropriate portioning when serving themselves. The compost and recycling bins around campus have seen increased use over the years as well.
Food Waste and Composting
University Dining Services aims to divert waste headed for the landfill by promoting composting across campus food sources. Since starting in 2010, UDS has saved an average of 120 tons of food annually. This includes post-consumer food waste, uneaten food waste, and food waste generated from food preparation.
UW-Stout runs catering services, which are the most difficult to manage waste in. The university's primary goal is to provide quality food in ample quantity to satisfy the customers, however there are many sustainable regulations in place to minimize waste and maximize food safety. Any leftover food that is set out is composted, but any food that was not set out is frozen for future use or worked into specials at the cafeterias. The leftovers depend on the amount of people at the event, so it is difficult to judge how much food waste this service produces. To remedy this problem, hosts of events are required to give attendee numbers so that the kitchen can prepare just enough food for the audience.
This information was provided by Ann Thies, Director of University Dining Services.