Facilities Management / University

New initiative looks to cut back on waste in residential restaurants

All residential restaurants at Central Michigan University are now part of a new program to help eliminate waste and increase recycling.

“Zero Waste” is designed to help cut back on the amount of disposed waste in campus restaurants and to make sure that waste is taken care of in a more Earth-friendly manner.

“Zero Waste is a full-circle concept, where our goal is to reduce food waste, reduce the amount of trash going to a landfill, and increase products that will be reused,” said Nikki Smith, marketing manager for Campus Dining.

Some new procedures include putting preparatory food scraps and waste in clear plastic bins, then later composting.

Items that Campus Dining calls “post-consumer waste,” such as napkins, leftover food and bones, are disposed of in bins in the dishrooms. When it comes to disposing of this waste, customers just need to scrape their plates off into the appropriately-marked bins.

These scraps are collected and composted with the other food waste.

“All compostable products are placed in black bins near the loading dock of each residential restaurant,” Smith said. “A company called Future Organics picks up the material in those bins weekly and delivers it to Morgan Composting in Sears, Mich.”

Instead of throwing the waste away and having it sent to a landfill, Morgan Composting uses it to help make something useful.

“Morgan Composting processes it, and it is used in the production of a variety of customized soil treatments,” Smith said.

To help reduce the amount of food waste, new measures were made to monitor and weigh the amount of food used to make sure no more than what was necessary was used.

“By weighing all pre-consumer food waste and monitoring those weights, we can work toward reducing the amount of food waste that is created within campus dining,” Smith said.

A large number of items are also collected and recycled, including things such as cardboard, plastic, glass, aluminum and other recyclable items.

According to Smith, if this program is properly implemented, it has the potential to save CMU money in the future.

“There are no immediate cost savings with this program. The intent of the program is to divert landfill waste and, instead, have a greater percentage of waste that can be reused (recycled or composted),” Smith said. “However, with the increased education that comes with the program about pre- and post-consumer waste, there is potential for both our employees and customers to reduce food waste, which in turn would reduce food cost to the university.”

This program could also eliminate the need for as many dumpsters around the residential restaurants, saving CMU additional money.

“As we generate far less landfill waste, we are able to remove certain landfill dumpsters that are no longer needed, and/or reduce the scheduled number of landfill waste pick-ups to save money,” Jay Kahn, director of facilities operations for CMU, said.

Kahn said other costs from this program would be offset by the future reduction in costs to take care of landfill waste.


  1. It was a pleasure to bring this waste reduction program to CMU as a consultant to Future Organics. I have high hopes for your success in becoming zero waste throughout this great university and looking forward for you to expand this initiative to your sporting events and city wide. CMU has now become an exemplary model to the city of Mt. Pleasant showing that true progression in sustainability and conservation can be achieved through accountability.


    Todd Wilson

    Perfect Circle Recycling

  2. We have come a long way in the four years we have been offering source seperated food scrap diversion. Many lessons have been learned and the opportunity to expand this area of recycling has grown. We encourage everyone to explore their individual opportunities to reduce the amount of food waste that goes to the landfill.

    Kudos to all involved with these programs and especially the CMU staff that have made the effort necessary for the program to be sucessful.

    See you soon!

    Brock Reinhard, GM
    Future Organics

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