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October 13, 2008

Wasted

Champlaincompost Curious to find out how much food students waste in dining halls every day? One day last month, a friend of mine and I tried to find out. We hung out at the Champlain College cafeteria from 4:45 to 7:00 p.m. Though much of Sodexo’s excess food is composted, this only occurs on the kitchen’s side. The student extras simply spill into a drain and are not composted. So we collected a scale, some latex gloves and some bins and grabbed the finished plates of the students. The first bin collected weighed 15 lbs.

After 13 bins had been captured, we found the total waste over a two-hour period was 125 ½ lbs. I weigh less than that! One would think my high-fat, low-exercise diet would lead to different results. At any rate, based on our projections, Champlain College, a relatively small school, most likely generates around 300 lbs. of waste a day. Close to 2100 lbs. a week!

Many students were simply thankful that they didn’t have to spend those countless seconds separating plates, napkins and silverware by the conveyor belt. Others wondered what we were doing. Our answers ranged from “Collecting the waste, bagging it and sending it to China on a red-eye-flight so they have enough sustenance to make you a sweatshirt,” and “Making a mean omelet in the morning for cheap.” After startling them for a second with those infeasible and disgusting plans, we would inform them that we were doing data projections as part of an environmental club, and planned on sending the waste as compost to the Intervale.

We noticed that students often felt guilty for not eating the entire plate and came up with excuses as to why this had occurred. The aim is not to guilt trip people into changing their ways. Rather, it’s to simply provide awareness about a problem that potentially could be turned into a benefit to the community. So next time at the caf, think about how you eat.

Photo: The Champlain Beaver, Albert Martini and a Sodexo employee.

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Comments

Tyler Machado

The St. Mike's Sodexo division just started putting out a composting bin in the dining hall this year (although it sometimes goes inexplicably missing for meals). In a completely unscientific guess, I'd say that 30-40% of people just go right by it without dumping out their excess food. It literally takes no more than 5 extra seconds, but then again, a lot of people can't even be bothered with something as simple as putting their dirty silverware in the silverware chutes.

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