Dispelling rumors to the contrary, Campus Dining Services and ARAMARK, the company that provides food to Western Carolina University, have a comprehensive recycling program for the majority of waste they produce.
With headquarters in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, ARAMARK is a corporation with over 200,000 employees and often supplies public schools and universities with their food products.
Organic waste, meaning all uneaten or partially eaten foods thrown away by students and other patrons of the upstairs cafeteria, is collected and sent to Cothran Farms, a hog farm in Waynesville. Inorganic waste is recycled in an appropriate manner that is dependent upon the type of material being recycled.
According to Sarah Caruso, marketing coordinator for Campus Dining Services, the University’s partnership with Cothran Farms goes back to 1974.
This nearly 40-year relationship allows Western Carolina’s food waste products to provide “90 percent of [Cothran Farm’s] feedstock and helps them sustain their business,” according to Caruso.
The food waste is cooked before being transported and fed to the hogs, a process that is routinely inspected by the USDA, Caruso said. Additionally, all pigs from Cothran Farms are then sold to regional processors in Eastern Tennessee and Western North Carolina, contributing to local food supplies. This process is beneficial to the region, as it provides income for local farmers and grocers in a sustainable way.
Additionally, Campus Dining Services has an extensive program by which materials such as plastic, glass, aluminum, cardboard and waste oil are all recycled in an appropriate fashion.
Waste oil, according to Caruso, is picked up by Blue Ridge Biofuels, a small-scale Asheville based biodiesel producer.
“Our waste oil is collected locally, made locally and sold locally to area gas stations and for home heating oil,” said Caruso.
By doing this, the university makes consuming a means of producing, an important aspect of building a sustainable local economy.
Ordinary recyclable material is collected and taken to Jackson County Waste Services, where it is processed with the rest of the county’s recyclables. These recyclables are then transported to Asheville where they are processed and sold as reusable material.
All recycled cardboard, for example, is baled by the University and sold to Asheville Waste Paper, who then resells the cardboard to Jackson Paper in Sylva as a fuel source for their biomass boiler.
“A local company is using our waste cardboard to create energy to make paper from recycled paper,” Caruso pointed out.
It is certainly refreshing to see such proactive steps being taken by Campus Dining Services and the University. Based on these steps, public institutions are taking their role seriously in being leaders and pioneers in the areas of recycling and renewable resources.