At Los Olivos, trash isn’t simply trash. It falls into one of three categories: There’s cardboard for recycling, miscellaneous trash and now, food scraps.
All food — fruit, vegetables, bread, meat, bones and dairy — can be composted by the campus’ trash hauler, Burrtec. Kitchen scraps from food preparation, uneaten food and leftover food from diners are thrown into biodegradable trash bags and a separate outdoor bin.
“We’re diverting about 10 yards of garbage a week from the landfill,” estimates Aaron Neilson, associate director of Foundation Dining Services.
In an average week, Los Olivos produces about 20 to 22 yards of waste – that’s enough to fill about seven Volkswagen Beetles. Recyclables take up about two cars, food waste takes up about three cars, leaving two cars-worth of miscellaneous trash that goes to the landfill.
When the composting program started about in spring quarter, it took staff members extra time to separate food trimmings in the kitchen, as well as sort through leftover and uneaten food in the dish room. After a while, it became part of the routine, says executive chef Arnold Zavalza.
“At first it was a little confusing and took a little more time, but I think it’s worthwhile when it’s such a noble cause,” Zavalza says. “The composting program has cut down from the actual waste, which will take up less area in the landfill.”
At its facility in Fontana, Burrtec composts the food waste with green waste, producing nutrient-rich soil in about 45 days. The compost is sold to local farmers and residents.
Separating compostable waste isn’t Los Olivos’ first pass at more sustainable operations. A grant from the California State Student Association last year replaced all 32-watt fluorescent lamps with more efficient 25-watt lamps. In 2008, the dining facility eliminated trays from the dining facility to save water, power and wasted food, as well as to challenge students to avoid overeating. The trayless initiative was estimated to save about 10,000 gallons of water and 125 pounds of food a day.