New programs reduce waste in campus restaurants

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leanpath sizedUAB Campus Restaurants is incorporating sustainability programs to reduce pre-consumer food waste and recycle cooking oil — with the added benefit of decreasing costs.


A new LeanPath tool measures and tracks food waste and generates reports that will help Campus Restaurants better target specific areas to reduce pre-consumer waste.

UAB is one of 50 colleges and universities in the United States to implement it, said Evan Thrailkill, unit marketing coordinator for Campus Restaurants who is employed by Sodexo, UAB’s food-management service. LeanPath is part of Sodexo’s companywide initiative to reduce food waste.

“According to findings from the first eight weeks of a LeanPath pilot program at other sites, pre-consumer food waste was reduced by one-third.” Thrailkill said. “We expect LeanPath to help us reduce waste as much as 80 percent.”

LeanPath, an automated food-waste tracking system, is used in The Commons on the Green. Thrailkill said employees collect and weigh any pre-consumer waste — any food from leftovers, overproduction, trimming, catering, etc. Those measurements are collected, along with the date, time and estimated value of the waste, and reports are sent to Campus Restaurants.

“LeanPath’s automated system goes far beyond what you can accomplish with pen and paper, providing the simplicity and detail you need to maximize waste-reduction,” Thrailkill said. Campus Restaurants pays $3,000 per year for the program.

Julie Price, UAB’s sustainability coordinator, said there are several benefits to reducing on-campus food waste, including lowered costs of disposal through reduced weight and frequency of dumpster or compactor pickups.

“At the retail and consumer level, U.S. food waste is about 40 percent, or 133 billion pounds in 2010, according to a 2014 USDA report,” Price said. “In the U.S., we spend about $1 billion to dispose of food waste, according to the EPA, and this is the single-largest component of the waste stream by weight. Most of this is compostable and could be diverted from landfills, but only a very small amount is actually recovered.”

From fries to renewable fuel

The second program will recycle used frying oils into biodiesel fuel.

Campus Restaurants also has partnered with Ventura Foods and Standard Biofuels to participate in an oil-recycling program for frying oils used at UAB.

“The oil is converted to biofuel or blended with petroleum diesel to create biodiesel fuel,” Thrailkill said. “100 percent of all collected oil is recycled — reducing pollutants into the environment and UAB’s carbon footprint.”

Agrileum Biofuels will process the oil collected at UAB at its hub in Birmingham. The company owns a 40-million-gallon-per-year biodiesel facility in Memphis, Tennessee. Thrailkill said Campus Restaurants anticipates sending 16,800 pounds of cooking oil to Agrileum each year.

“Biodiesel is a domestically produced, cleaner-burning and renewable alternative fuel that causes less damage when spilled compared with petroleum diesel,” Price said.

Thrailkill said Campus Restaurants will receive a discount on purchased frying oil in return for giving it to the processor.

“As one of the largest departments on campus, I think UAB Campus Restaurants has the chance to be a leader in sustainable solutions on campus and around the state,” Thrailkill said. “We are always looking for solutions to help make tomorrow a better day for the UAB campus community.”

“UAB Campus Restaurants and Sodexo continue to explore ways to reduce the volume of waste associated with our production and distribution efforts,” said Carolyn Farley, director of Academic and Student Services Operations. “We are pleased with progress made to date and look forward to learning more from the LeanPath study.”