Sustainable Dining at Purdue

Community Food

Purdue Housing & Food Services is committed to serving the campus community with nutritious fare, hygienic best practices, and sustainable waste management systems. A few examples of the university’s sustainable dining initiatives are listed below.

Biodiesel production from fryer oil and grease products

Before 2010, Purdue paid $7,000 annually to have food oil and grease hauled away. After 2010, companies paid Purdue to acquire the food oil and grease, which can be converted into a biodiesel. Total annual revenue for used fryer oil for 2010-12 was about $4,200. Around 14.5 tons of fryer oil was diverted in the fiscal year ending June 2012. In the 2013-14 year alone, Purdue diverted 7.58 tons of fryer oil and earned over $3,000 in revenue.

Tray-free dining

In August 2012, after a pilot in all five dining courts, Purdue instituted tray-free dining at Wiley and Windsor dining courts. Tray-free dining reduces washing costs, decreases tray waste by about 50 percent, and makes diners more aware of responsible, healthy eating choices. As of August 2013, all dining halls with the exception of Ford Dining Court are now tray-free.

Donate leftover food

Housing & Food Services has created a partnership with a local Food Finders Food Bank to send all leftover reusable/safe food items to help families in need and to reduce food waste in the landfill stream. In the 2013-14 year, Purdue donated over 10,000 pounds of food to the local food bank. Even while donating over 5 tons of food, it only represents a tiny portion of the food that Purdue uses per year allowing a lot of room for improvement.

Increased cardboard recycling

Cardboard balers (machines that compact and package cardboard) were installed as dining courts were built or remodeled. Selling baled cardboard generates revenue and diverts the cardboard from the landfill. In the 2013-14 year, dining halls contributed around 200 tons to the more than 1230 tons of cardboard and paper recycled at Purdue.

Reusable bottle program

In fall 2010, each of the roughly 6,000 freshmen on a Purdue Dining Plan received a reusable bottle to use in our carry-out operations called "On-the-Go!" and other University Residences retail operations. The "On-the-Go!" initiative was expanded in 2011, and in 2012 Purdue Dining & Catering distributed reusable bottles along with reusable bags for all 10,000-plus students on board (dining) plans. Signs are posted to remind students that if they use their reusable bottles in "On-the-Go!", their fountain drinks are free. If they use them in retail operations, the cost is significant lower.

Electricity generation from food waste

All the leftover food from students’ plates or trays returned to the dish room is used to make electricity at the West Lafayette Sewage plant. In 2012, the program diverted 455 tons of food waste from the landfill. Landfill fees paid by the University decreased by $20,475. The waste matter was used to generate 795,937 kilowatts of energy, resulting in a savings of $55,715.57 for the West Lafayette Sewage plant. Currently, the food waste provides the fuel to generate about 20 percent of the power needs for that facility. Watch a “Boiler Bytes” segment from late 2009, when the program began.