Practice sustainable food waste - don't landfill it!

food waste, dont landfill it

The goal of the project was to investigate how to create a sustainable food waste disposal system for ASU. Arizona State University’s Office of University Sustainability Practices and Facilities Management collaborated with six graduate and sixteen undergraduate students in a workshop class provided by Katja Brundiers and Aaron Redman from the School of Sustainability.

Numerous other stakeholders contributed their expertise, particularly ARAMARK’s sustainability office and representatives from the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality’s (ADEQ) Solid Waste division.

ASU promotes a zero waste goal, but it has yet to tackle food waste. How do we collect and process food waste across campus in a safe, healthy, and economically viable way? How do we get buy-in from staff on food-outlets and ground-works to sort and transport pre-consumer food? How do we get consumers across ASU to dispose of their food waste in composting bins? To tackle these complex issues, the class first looked into food waste disposal systems at leading universities across the US and carried out a waste audit of one of ASU’s dining halls to identify how much waste there is. Then, students conducted interviews and observed current practices in order to clarify the legal requirements, determine appropriate composting technologies, and devise opportunities for organizational change. Students and their ASU project partners discussed their findings along four steps. They developed a systems-understanding of food waste at ASU; created future visions; used sustainability principles to assess the current state and create a sustainable vision; and devised strategies for achieving this vision.

The final report details the extensive research and serves as a reference guide for anyone who seeks to advance food waste sustainability at ASU. Additionally, several sections were written to be directly useful for stakeholders (e.g. the legal section for ADEQ). Students presented the results to the ASU project partners, collaborators, and the broader public in an open exhibit that allowed people to engage in one-to-one explorations of the subject.

This project has laid a solid foundation for future collaborative projects including (1) research on what a sustainable food waste disposal system would consist of in terms of developing, describing and justifying criteria, and (2) implementation pathways to plan, initiate, and monitor pilot food waste disposal efforts in one or two dining halls.