La Crosse, Wis. (WXOW) – Food waste left in landfills is said to contribute to 34% of all methane gas emissions into the atmosphere. Methane is about 23 times more potent of a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.
Industrial kitchens can be big contributors to that food waste. Western Technical College uses a unique machine to reduce thousands of pounds from heading to the landfill.
“We’re really reducing our waste by about 90%,” Western Tech Chef Ben Salaski said.
Western’s industrial kitchen makes food for thousands of students throughout the year. A piece of equipment called an EcoVim Food Waste Dehydrator helps reduce byproduct.
“The goal is zero waste,” Salaski said. “I can’t control if someone is going to eat all their cheeseburger [or] throw it in the garbage, but I can control what my staff does with what was previously going into the garbage.”
Unused trimmings and other waste from food preparation goes into the machine. It heats and removes the moisture from the waste. What is left is ground up, and out comes compostable material, drastically reduced in size.
Just in the last month, Western has reduced the amount of food heading to the landfill by 1,200 pounds.
“Everyone’s heard of farm to table food, well this is sort of the back side of that,” Salaski said.
Western incorporates the use of the food waste dehydrator with culinary and sustainability education, including it in their sustainable food communities course.
“I was shocked how much food waste was going into landfills,” culinary student Donald Culver said. “Unfortunately, restaurants are one of the main contributors to all the food waste that’s going in landfills.”
The reduced waste goes toward other uses like landscaping or composting instead of the trash.
“This is just a great example and a really easy example, because we already know there’s nutrients, there’s things that are in the food waste that we’re throwing out that are perfectly suitable to grow more food,” Western’s Sustainability Coordinator Casey Meehan said.
Meehan said the machine cost roughly $20,000, funded partly through the student government’s reserve funding. Much of that cost was recovered quickly according to Meehan, because they do not pay as much to dispose of trash due to the reductions they see.
Western is not the only school in the area using a food waste dehydrator. Sparta High School also utilizes a similar process.