PULLMAN – Dining Services recently partnered with Cedar Grove Packaging of Seattle to serve faculty, staff and students on dinnerware and food containers that easily go from the table to the WSU compost facility.
The university has used compostable dishware for 10 years and silverware and cups for three years, said Shawn Hoch, associate director of culinary operations and executive chef at WSU Dining Services. But a recent cost comparison showed WSU could save about $4,000 with Cedar Grove, he said, and almost every item is cheaper through the company.
Eliminating hauling costs
There also is a cost associated with hauling garbage out of WSU, said Gary Henrich, a food service broker from Kenco Sales Inc. who helped WSU establish its partnership with Cedar Grove. For example, he estimated the cost of hauling waste in the Seattle area at $150 per ton.
Many compostable items, including paper/wax cups, paper plates and about 20 other items, are cheaper than their noncompostable counterparts, Hoch said. Some compostable products might cost a bit more (30 percent more for clear cups made with corn resin compared to petroleum resin, Hoch said), but savings are realized when the dinnerware can be discarded in WSU composting.
“All these items (from Cedar Grove) are compostable,” said Jan Persha, with Food Services of America, a distributor of food-service items to customers like restaurants, schools, hospitals and government operations. “Since the (WSU Pullman) campus has its own composting facility, it’s a perfect match.”
Prices falling
Prices of compostable materials have fallen in the last 18 months, Hoch said, and he expects Cedar Grove to continue to reduce prices as sales volume and competition increase, technology improves and manufacturing becomes more efficient.
Cedar Grove Packaging does not make or sell the compostable products. Rather, it works with manufacturers, tests and certifies that their products meet Cedar Grove standards, then allows the companies to use Cedar Grove’s signature brown-colored markings, and makes the products available to users like WSU.
The company marks more than 100 products, Heinrich said. Some of the manufacturers that use the Cedar Grove logo/markings include Chinet, Reynolds and Fabrickell.
Both the University of Washington and University of Puget Sound implemented use of Cedar Grove-marked products about 18 months ago, he said, and both partnerships seem to be successful.
Faster decomposition standards
Standards for compostable material differ greatly from country to country, Heinrich said. In the U.S., material is considered compostable if it is 60 percent decomposed in 180 days. In Europe, the standard is 90 percent decomposed in 90 days.
Cedar Grove is moving toward the European standard, Heinrich said, and would like to see products that decompose 100 percent in 45 days.
Sustainability efforts within the food industry continue to grow, Hoch said. Every year he sees dozens of food companies and suppliers with new “green” products.
Likewise, WSU Dining Services has been improving its sustainability efforts for years, Hoch said.
“Many universities around the country are implementing sustainability and are innovators in thier own ways,” he said. “WSU is diverting waste from landfills, which reduces costs. By composting, we are helping to regenerate soil by adding nutrient-rich materials.
“Composting has been a very successful initiative here at WSU,” he said.
For more about Cedar Grove, see here.