Dining Hall Waste: A Back of House Tour

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Pots and pans in the back of a dining hall

 So in our lovely 24/7 Dining Hall we hear about the waste we produce all the time. I mean it’s not really waste it's all compost for us, not as bad as garbage, right. With the Love Food Not Waste event taking place last week, I asked myself the simple question: if we produce this much waste just eating, how much does the kitchen produce making the food we eat?

Two volunteers for the uOttawa Love Food Not Waste program in the dining hall

You see the Dining Hall is zero waste but that is in the part where you and I eat. There are no straws, no wrappers, no containers, nothing that can become garbage. What about in the "back of house" where all the food is made? Is that also zero waste? Now figuring this out was a little harder than I thought so I got in contact with Maryann Moffitt from Food Services and asked her to show me around.

First there were a lot of elevators and stairs in there, WOW! I would have definitely gotten lost. Luckily I had Maryann to guide me. We went right to the core of the question which meant the she actually took me to see the waste, not just some stats from on a spreadsheet in her office.

First we went to the "halfway point". This is where all waste goes temporarily before being brought down under the UCU to be dealt with.

Compost bins piled one on top of the other at uOttawa
Maryann showed me where the pile of compost bins go as they get filled up. They fill up like a dozen of these every day.

Then she showed me all the boxes that carry the fruits and vegetables. They go into a wooden bin and are "broken down" just so that there is enough room to put them all.

A wooden cardboard recycling bin at the university of Ottawa

Then we headed to the area where the final stage happens, the place where the trucks pick it all up. I was genuinely surprised at the ratio of compost to recycling to actual garbage.

A large red outdoor recycling bin at the University of Ottawa

The red bins are cardboard recycling. There are more of them than anything else. Now this makes sense since the kitchen receives a lot of food everyday and it has to come in somehow. Not just fruits and vegetables, but cans of sauce, bottles of oil... basically everything arrives in a box.
Better that it's in recyclable cardboard than disposable plastic right?

And of course there are also a ton of green compost bins as you can clearly see.

A garbage dumpster at uOttawa

This bin, this blue one here, is the only garbage bin they have. I am serious. One garbage bin, in comparison to the amount of recycling and compost. All the garbage in this bin is compacted first and then put into this one bin. I am truly impressed.

A series of outdoor recycling bins at the University of Ottawa

I will be honest with you. I was kind of expecting to find a secret stash with mountains of garbage. I thought there was no way they couldn’t produce anything but mountains of garbage given the fact that they serve something like 6,000 meals every day.

I was ready for a big exposure moment, like "Gotcha! How do you explain mount Trashmore?"... but the truth is, yes they could produce some garbage, but my word their ratio is amazing! To recycle and compost that much is amazing. Seriously. The only way I could have been more amazed would have been if I found out they had no waste at all, but you know that's why people have long term goals right?

~ clarissa - communications intern

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