Sustainable Dining at Purdue
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 in 2010-12 was about $4,200. Around 14.5 tons of fryer oil was diverted in the fiscal year ending June 2012.
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. During fall 2012, a total of 23,363 pounds of food was diverted from the landfill to the food bank. This volume is equivalent to 17,971 meals, but it was less than 0.5 percent of the total food consumed on campus during that period, so there is further scope 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 2012 fiscal year, Purdue baled and recycled about 136 tons of cardboard from residential dining operations.
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 and 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.