University criticised over food waste policy


A student working in McIntosh Hall has expressed his concern at the amount of food waste that is thrown out everyday.

Daniel Helbig, a fourth year, feels that the University needs to do more to tackle the issue and students need to be made more aware of the problem.

He is particularly concerned about the large amount of food being thrown away that has not been touched by students. Halls of residence are required to provide three meal choices for each service and must ensure that there is enough food available for those who arrive later.

They are required to make enough food for all residents but there are some students who choose not to attend meals. Some waste is also produced from students not finishing the food on their plate.

Daniel and some of his co-workers raised the issue with their duty manager and some members of the Transition team but they feel that the issue is not receiving enough recognition from the University.

He said: “There seems to be a general awareness about the problem but it seems overshadowed by ineffectiveness and a lack of proper motivation to look for feasible possibilities.”

In August last year, sustainable development student Amy Cowan uncovered in her master’s dissertation that at DRA alone, just under 17 tons of bio-degradable waste is directed to landfill over the course of each academic year.

Catering manager Alan Riddell did not deny that there is an issue with food waste but he commented that the University is not flippant about the amount of food that is thrown out. He stressed that the University is trying to do as much as possible without reducing the choice that is available to students.

The University does try to recycle as much food waste as possible. They purchased an in-vessel Rocket Combustor called Hamish in 2007. All fruit and vegetable waste from catered halls, University cafes and green waste from University grounds is recycled into compost and used on the University grounds.

As well as recycling food waste, Mr Riddell said that they are trying to reduce the amount of food that is produced in the first place. The University has recently trialled a new system at John Burnet Hall that allows students to choose their own portion size in an effort to reduce the amount of food left on students’ plates. This has been ineffective, however, as some students still take more food than they eat and so it has not reduced the amount of food waste left on plates.

The University is also trialling ‘hall specials.’ This means that chef managers are allowed to have a special, which they decide upon in conjunction with the hall committee in an attempt to ensure that students enjoy their food and don’t leave too much.

Most halls do allow students to have seconds at the end of service if there is any leftover food on the counters.

The University have implemented a sustainable food policy across all schools and units. This includes a long term aim to send zero food waste to landfill in the future. From January next year, this will be enforced as a part of nationwide legislation. This means that the University will have to pay to dispose of their food waste and will need to reduce the amount that is produced.

Daniel feels that there needs to be a greater awareness of the issue among the student body and that more can be done to reduce the amount of that is produced by the University.

He said: “I think there is quite a bit that we can do. We could work out more specifically which options are preferred by the students. We could make more accurate predictions on how many students are likely to come in. We could also recycle more food so that some food can be reused for the following day or dinner or we could give students the possibility to let the chefs know if they are not planning to attend given meals, thus allowing them to prepare the right amount.

“My co-workers and I have become a lot more proactive about this issue, having waited in frustration for too long. We will be talking to Transition and to our manager and hopefully we can come up with more concrete plans.”


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