Outcome of Development of a biologically integrated food waste composting system

In the fall of 1998 students from the Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources of Berea College began a program to collect all pre-consumer waste from the kitchen and use it at the nearby greenhouse and garden area. Two 40-gallon, plastic buckets were placed in the kitchen – one in the preparation area and one next to the washing sink. Kitchen workers were asked to put all food waste in the buckets while trying to minimize the amount of non-organic waste such as plastic wrappers and gloves. Each day the buckets were collected, emptied at the greenhouse, washed, and returned to the kitchen. Because the greenhouse and garden area is located only about 200 yards from the food-service kitchen the buckets could usually be carted without the use of a motor vehicle, saving additional fossil fuels. This food-waste collection system has continued, more or less uninterrupted, since October, 1998.

The estimated amount of pre-consumer food waste generated per capita at Berea College is about one quarter pound per day. Over the course of a year this yields over 30 tons (wet weight) from the facility. Of course, not all of this waste consists of potentially edible food. Peelings, seeds, and bruised or spoiled produce typically comprise a significant portion of the waste collected. However, considerable amounts of grain products, such as bread, pasta, and rice, that are prepared but not distributed to students are found in the waste. (Post-consumer waste per capita is estimated to be at least as large, if not larger, than the pre-consumer waste.)

Comparing this estimate to food-waste data presented by the Economic Research Service of the US Department of Agriculture puts the value into some perspective. According to Kantor et al. (1997) the average American consumes about three pounds and wastes about one pound of food each day. Considering the fact that post-consumer food waste is not collected in this pilot project, the amount of food waste generated at Berea College appears to be comparable to or slightly higher than the national average. Data on post-consumer waste, as well as estimates from other college and university food services, are necessary before making definitive conclusions

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