Culinary Services practices composting, sustainability

People eat everyday. But once they finish, they throw their food away in the trash where it becomes waste. 

The Culinary Services Department of Sonoma State would like more students on campus that utilize dining facilities on campus to be more educated on the practice of composting. This is the method by which food and products of food are disposed of in a green bin so that it does not become waste thus serving as a recycling habit that sustains the planet’s resources. 

All dining establishments on campus serve products that are all compostable, from the food itself to the dishes the food is served on. 

Three trash bins are always grouped together inside these establishments. There are the black bins for waste, blue bins for recycle, and green bins for compost. The employees of Culinary Services hope that students understand this system of sustainability. 

Compost disposal, when paired with recycling, can reduce the amount of waste that goes into landfills. Many people find it beneficial because anything that is compostable can serve as fertilizer and soil conditioner to help with the growth of produce. 

Culinary Services takes this matter quite seriously, as they constantly remind every employee to be aware of what goes in the compost. Anyone working in Culinary Services will say that everything is compostable except the lids of coffee cups. 

All the disposable dishes are made from organic materials consisting of bio-plastics, recycled fibers, tree starch and other resources. Companies such as Eco Products, provide materials from natural sources and are helping people to recognize this issue. 

Consumers can expect to see composting become a more common practice in garbage disposal. In the Kitchens there are green bins everywhere and only one waste bucket. A mechanical mulcher is used to grind up food matter so it’s compact.

Justin Sullivan is a senior at Sonoma State and is the Sustainability Ambassador for Culinary Services. Sullivan takes the responsibility of making sure all practices, especially concerning waste, are sustained. 

This practice goes back to the pilot project “Compost Happens” that was originally brought to the dining hall two years ago by Diedre Tubb who helped divert 36,000 tons in the first year. 

“Before, we had 25 percent post-consumer recycled product,” said Sullivan, “but when you bring it into the food aspect, recycling stops because it’s contaminated with food residue, oils, and fats. But making it compostable will save a lot of wastes from going into the landfill. We want to divert waste make sure that we have a minimal output on the environment.”

Sullivan has been working with different companies that provide these natural resources in materials. Now, he hopes to help Culinary Services cooperate with World Centric. 

This company has recently moved headquarters from Palo Alto to Petaluma. They design and sell biodegradable food-serving products, utensils, and containers. Working with a company that is local may help establish a close-linked partnership. World Centric offers discounts to schools and non-profits who are contributing to the cause of sustainability. 

On a short-term scale, the price on some compost products is more expensive than going with simple plastic. For example, a compostable cup would be less than a plastic cup whereas a compostable clamshell container would be more expensive than a plastic item. The price varies with regard to size. But on a long-term scale, it saves energy and will double the amount of utensils produced with the same energy it takes to make one plastic utensil.