Renison College is the Anglican church college affiliated with The University of Waterloo. It is its own subsystem with over 170 residents living in it during the fall and winter terms. Many other students come to Renison College for classes in Social Development Studies, Social Work, Japanese, and Religious Studies. Many of these students also eat lunches in the college cafeteria. However, during the spring term there are only 17 permanent residents. These residents consume all of their meals at the college. As well as the 17 residents, many conferences are held on weekends at the college. The persons attending these various conferences also eat their meals at the college.
The Renison kitchen and cafeteria are open during the spring term. With so few people using the kitchen and cafeteria it is an opportune time to study the subsystem of how the kitchen is run, how students use the facilities and finally, how much food waste is generated by both the kitchen staff and the residents using the cafeteria. I believe the project rationale is simple. Currently no one really knows the amount of waste being generated by the kitchen. Renison does a good job recycling glass, cans, paper, and cardboard but organic waste goes straight into the garbage. By discovering the sources and amount of organic waste I can formulate a plan to reduce it by composting.
This is very important for campus sustainability. I define sustainability as an uderlying system of values to ensure that those after you can have the same or better life. Currently the waste system at the university is not sustainable. Tipping fees mean less money the University has to spend on education and research, the two prominant purposes of the University institution. Along with this era of budget cuts coming from provincial and federal governments comes higher tuition. This is a very unsustainable system with only the rich being able to afford higher learning. Despite this educational unsustainability, campus waste must still be dealt with. By reducing the amount of waste going to landfill and the money being paid to ship it away the savings can be put toward eduction.
Renison college currently serves three meals a day: breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Each meal generates organic waste in the form of peelings from carrots, potatoes, lettuce, tomatoes, etc... Unlike other cafeterias, Renison makes most of their own salads and potato dishes. Under the current system food scrapings are just thrown into the garbage. These food scrapings include any peelings from vegetables, sliced fruit, rotten fruit, even coffee grinds from the Renison coffee maker. Students themselves also generate waste. Any food left over on plates is simply thrown into the garbage. This waste includes such organic waste as uneaten vegetables, apple cores, fruit peels, and tea bags. I plan to study exactly how and where this waste is being generated.
There are many different criteria I can use to determine the amount and type of waste being generated as well as possible solutions for its reduction. The actual gross weight of the organic and compostable waste is one criteria along with the weight of the other waste of non organic and non compostable origins. What is done with leftover food in the kitchen is another criteria I can use to determine how responsible the kitchen staff are with their waste. Even the kitchen staff's attitude toward food preparation and the amount of work required to seperate compostable from noncompostable waste are criterion I will use.
I won't just be measuring the amount of waste generated by the kitchen and cafeteria. The final goal is to determine whether waste reduction is possible. To determine this I must have an idea of how much waste is being made. Of course the results only involve 17 residents. I can however make broad assumptions of how much waste would be generated by 170 students. This waste being generated by the students is coming from both the kitchen and from leftovers from the cafeteria. I will need to know how much compostable waste is coming from the kitchen and how much is coming from the students eating in the cafeteria. On top of the compostable weights they must be contrasted to all of the other waste coming from both the kitchen and cafeteria. This way I can understand what percentage of the total volume of waste is possible to be reduced by composting or other methods.
Organising a waste audit is a very complex and complicated task. It involves the support and cooperation of many people. If the kitchen staff are not concerned about reducing waste then a waste audit would be much more difficult to complete. The first step in the waste audit was to talk to people who have experience dealing with waste management issues. Both George Priddle, my prof, and Patti Cook, the University of Waterloo waste management coordinator are instrumental in this project. George Priddle gave me information on past waste audits and Patti Cook talked to me about the procedure and ways of organising and completing an audit including giving me a special scale to weigh garbage.
The next step was to approach the kitchen staff about what a waste audit is and what I hope to accomplish. Andy, Cathy, and Artemis (the Renison summer kitchen staff) were very enthusiastic to participate and make the audit a success and as accurate as possible. They gave me plastic bins to use for compostable collection and talked about how and when garbage is taken out during the day. I decided to put one bin in the food preparation area in the kitchen to collect kitchen waste while the other bin would go in the dish washing area where student leftovers are scraped into the garbage. On each bin I put signs explaining what type of waste would be collected in the bins. Waste audit information sheets were also developed to aid in the recording of information. After all this preparation the waste audit can now begin. It will consist of four weeks of collections, twice a week. The preliminary dates for the audit are: June 25,27;July 3,4,8,10,15,16th. At the end of the four week period the results will be analysed to determine waste patterns and possible reduction techniques.