Washington University Dining Services Recognized for Waste Management Best Practices

SustainabilityAwardsLogoThe Bon Appétit team at Washington University in St. Louis (WUSTL) has long made fighting  waste a top priority. Whether it’s finding streamlining purchasing practices to reduce kitchen waste, coming up with creative ways to decrease overall waste, or fueling a fleet of trucks on used fryer oil, the team is always looking for ways to bring this issue to the forefront for both employees and students.

So it felt quite natural to submit an entry on best practices for waste management to the National Association of College & University Food Services (NACUFS) 2014 Sustainability Awards. Happily, the team was thrilled to be selected from many entries from colleges and universities around the country to win the NACUFS Gold Award for Waste Management!

Over the past year, the team has made tremendous strides with the campuswide Choose Reusables campaign, which encourages students to opt for reusable alternatives to a variety of different items including plastic bags, compostable containers, and paper coffee cups. The primary tenet behind the Choose Reusables campaign is to find ways for the community to reduce overall waste, not just create “better” waste. In partnership with a few student groups (Tote Green and Net Impact), the Bon Appétit at Washington University team was able to create teams of ambassadors who assisted with sharing the message about waste reduction. Overall use of compostable to-go containers was reduced by 30 percent (through the Eco To-Go program), and plastic bags were eliminated in two convenience-store locations. These initiatives have helped spark interest among the larger Washington University community to get on the Choose Reusables bandwagon and create a more sustainable community.

EPA visit to WUSTL

Executive Chef Patrick McElroy (right) explains how used cooking oil is recycled into biodiesel that is then used in the Bon Appétit delivery trucks to John Smith (left), deputy director of the Air & Waste Management Division of the Environmental Protection Agency Region 7. (In the middle is Paul Schimmele, dining services manager, and in the rear is Nadeem Siddiqui, resident district manager of Bon Appétit.) Photo: Joe Angeles/WUSTL

They have also drawn public recognition from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which on May 21 sent an EPA representative to campus to officially recognize WUSTL for reducing its volume of solid waste (the compost efforts alone have diverted 317 tons of food waste from landfills since 2011!) and to view first-hand its innovative recycling and food recovery programs.

The EPA commended WUSTL and the Bon Appétit team for:

  • Oil reuse: Recycling more than 23,000 gallons of kitchen waste oil into biodiesel to fuel campus delivery trucks. (The fat to fuel process recovers energy and recycles waste oils.)
  • Saying goodbye to bottled water: Commending Washington University for being the first university in North America to eliminate the sale of bottled water on its grounds. Newly installed water fountain retrofits make refilling reusable water bottles fast and convenient.
  • Food recovery: The Bon Appétit at WUSTL team donates leftover packaged foods to Campus Kitchens, which repurposes the food into meals for shelters and groups in the community, and recently joined EPA’s Food Recovery Challenge (FRC), a national initiative aimed at encouraging organizations to find better alternatives to throwing food away through exactly the kind of efforts WUSTL is already practicing.

The Bon Appétit team is very proud to partner with WUSTL on these efforts to decrease food waste sent to the landfill — which creates greenhouse gases contributing to climate change — by both preventing it and diverting it into more productive uses.

Submitted by April Powell, Director of Marketing and Communications