Food Waste Is Preventable, Says Purdue Panel | Campus

In a panel dedicated to discussing food waste and ways to alleviate it, the Purdue Student Government and city officials said food waste is preventable and steps to address the problem have already been taken. taken.

The panel took place Wednesday evening at the Wilmeth Active Learning Center on Wednesday evening. It was hosted by PSG, the City of West Lafayette and the West Lafayette Go Greener Commission, and was moderated by Lindsey Payne, Director of Service Learning and Assistant Professor of Environmental and Ecological Engineering Practice.

Food waste is preventable

Payne pointed out, along with Abigail Engelberth, Associate Professor of Agricultural and Biological Engineering and Environmental and Ecological Engineering, that although food loss and food waste are two separate issues, food waste is preventable.

“There are 38.4 million tonnes of food waste every year and commercial resources are among the main factors,” Engelberth said. “Industrial food waste is a small part, but it is really punctual and it is homogeneous.”

Engelberth’s presentation focused on how industrial processing has the most potential to reduce its food waste, even though it only accounts for 5% of all food waste. The homogeneity of the waste makes it easier to collect it because it is more predictable.

“It doesn’t need a collection system as complex as residential food waste,” Engelberth said. “Industries can (move similar garbage) from place to place. It will also always be the same type of things to come – there won’t be any chicken when you’re ready for the cauliflower.

There is also a lot of potential income in food that has been wasted, she said, and depending on the specific waste, “it can be turned into something much more valuable.”

The anaerobic digester

David Henderson, West Lafayette’s director of utilities, explained how the city implemented an anaerobic digester to tackle food waste.

The digester underwent a major renovation in 2008, and after a compost project at Purdue failed due to odor issues, a partnership was formed between West Lafayette and the university to ensure all food waste was sent to the anaerobic digester.

“There are food waste deliveries five days a week,” said Henderson. “But the food courts have reduced waste significantly because there is no food wasted if you don’t have people using the facilities or using take out containers.

“There are still things put in place last year when the campus reopened that still apply, but no matter how you receive your meals, if food waste can go to sewage treatment plants, this is the best place. ”

After going through the anaerobic digester and becoming stable, the waste “goes to a retention lagoon, then to a farm and returns nitrogen, phosphorus and other nutrients to the earth,” he said. declared.

“We are trying to create a circular economy,” said Henderson. “It is a partnership and it does not charge the university anything.”

“Where there is food, there is waste”

The last panelist to speak was Madison Hodges, senior agricultural engineering and member of the Go Greener Commission and the Purdue Student Sustainability Council. She highlighted how the use of take-out containers has lowered food waste conversion rates.

“As we move into post-COVID, or the new normal, it’s important that we use the infrastructure that is already in place,” Hodges said. “Where there are students there is food and where there is food there is waste. “

She said seven sororities, fraternities and co-ops send their waste to the anaerobic digester, diverting “12,000 pounds of food in the 2019-20 school year.”

“There is a huge opportunity for growth (there),” Hodges said. “We have 64 homes on campus that could be involved.

“A waste collection system is in place. Some of them only accumulate in the kitchen and others are scratched. We also provide signage, educational materials, and present at home to inform them of proper procedures such as not contaminating food waste entering the processor.

There is also a community repository, and the Go Greener Commission is working to identify future locations to be installed in the coming months.

While some sororities, fraternities, and co-op houses have a deposit system, Purdue Residences does not. Hodges said the main reason for this was logistics, as “it’s more work for the janitorial staff and the waste management team.”

“We have ‘PSSC Clear Waste’ training in mess rooms,” she said. “Previously there were food scuff marks in the food courts and they weighed (the food that was scratched) and shamed everyone for raising awareness and only taking what you’re actually going to eat.

“Recently, they had a project with benefits for the food-free plates. Usually, the conveyor belts are really full, but if the students are eating all of their food, they should put their plates at the top level of the conveyor belt on the green platters.

Hodges that while there is still a lot of work to be done, students can still make a difference in the way food waste is handled at Purdue and the Grand Lafayette area.

“As students we can defend,” she said, “and we should be working with the staff and faculty at Purdue rather than working against the machine. Just jump in and make a move. little lifting of heavy loads. “

Throwing away food prematurely

Jen-Yi Huang, Associate Professor of Food Science, explained how food labels can be misleading due to lack of regulation, confusing consumers and resulting in wastage or loss of around 33-50% food produced for humans.

“Edible food that is thrown away prematurely and unnecessarily is food waste,” Huang said. “The average American wastes 20 pounds of food a month. I wish I could lose 20 pounds a month, but I can’t.

Huang reviewed the typical labels that people would see in a grocery store and their true meaning in terms of impact on the food purchased. Only one percent of consumers know that date labels are only regulated for specific foods, he said.

“’Expires on’ or ‘Use by before’ means that the food may not be safe to eat after the stated date, so you can take that as a safety indicator,” he said. “Best if used by” or “Best if used by” is the manufacturer’s recommendation for optimal quality foods. It won’t kill you, but you don’t really have to throw it away.

“” Sell by “is intended for inventory management in grocery stores. They just want to make sure the number of days the product is out, and then they’re going to run it.

The grocery stores themselves will guess if these are products with a longer shelf life, Huang said.

“Even processed foods can be a year past the date and it’s okay,” he said. “Now that doesn’t mean go get some old eggs and have dinner. They must be stored correctly and cooked properly. And make sure they have nothing unusual before they eat. “

He asked consumers to download the Foodkeeper app published by, where users can check specific foods and see if they can still be eaten.

“Take-out may not be scientific, but trust your senses with the food you eat,” Huang said. “Trust your senses, not your gut. “

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