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Colleges and universities in the Midwestern United States are implementing programs to reduce waste, in what will hopefully be a precursor to waste to energy programs.

Currently, some such institutions are using better waste management practices, particularly for food waste, and some even have a goal of zero waste, indicating a 90 percent or greater waste diversion rate from landfills. A next step could focus on implementing waste to energy technology for the institutions.

Campus offices of sustainability are setting goals for campus waste of various forms, including food waste and the related football stadium waste. Football stadium waste reduction is a prominent goal for many institutions of higher education in the Midwest, with Ohio State University and the University of Michigan positioned prominently in the field.

The Ohio State University indicates that they are the biggest stadium in the country to continually maintain a zero waste status, diverting 90 percent or greater waste from landfills through composting, recycling and repurposing. They have even achieved international notoriety, with Prince Albert II of Monaco visiting the school in 2016 to learn more about the zero waste field.

The University of Michigan implemented their first zero waste stadium goal in 2017 in Michigan stadium, the largest of its kind in the country. Then, they averaged an 88 percent diversion rate. During the 2017 season, the university did achieve an industry zero waste standard during a game with Rutgers University and lingered just under the zero waste mark for the rest of the season. That season, the university composted over 28 tons and recycled close to 27 tons.

Outside of the Midwest, the challenge for landfill waste diversion has reached national proportions. The annual 2018 landfill-diversion higher education GameDay Recycling Challenge, organized by the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Wildlife Federation, the College and University Recycling Coalition and RecycleMania Inc., included winners from several Midwestern universities, such as the Ohio State University and Northwestern University.

Some Midwestern institutions of higher education are also developing comprehensive waste management and food waste initiatives, such as Indiana University, who have set waste goals for 2020. Their office of sustainability, currently headed by Director of Sustainability Andrew Predmore, focuses on the university’s sustainability and environmental plans.

Regarding waste management, they hope to meet a goal of institutional 50 percent waste diversion by 2020. They implemented a zero waste goal for all campus dining and opened their first such facility in 2017, The Goodbody Eatery, where they recycle and compost. Currently, each month they divert 20,000 pounds of waste from their 30 dining facilities from landfills.

Similarly, the Ohio University office of sustainability, headed by director of sustainability Elaine Goetz, has formed three faculty-led “Sustainability Hubs” campus programs; the Sustainable Infrastructure Hub focuses on waste, energy, buildings and water, while the Sustainable Living Hub focuses on food, among other topics. The Sustainable Administration Hub focuses on climate and investments.

Additionally, a number of Chicago, Illinois-area institutions of higher education have installed programs to combat food waste, such as DePaul University, the University of Illinois at Chicago, Columbia College Chicago, Northwestern University and Loyola University Chicago.

As institutions of higher education in the Midwest and beyond look to reduce waste, including food waste, they may also take a step further and look to waste to energy solutions for their campus wastes.

Take, for instance, the engineering consulting firm Lutz, Daily & Brain, LLC in Kansas, who implemented studies for Southeast Missouri State University for power plant waste to energy and co-generation of power and heat. A transmission system was created and the project has been implemented.

Waste to energy can be a solution for food waste regardless of the point of origin. As institutions of higher education look to implement real solutions for campus waste, they can follow other industries into the future by utilizing waste to energy systems for their campuses.

Written by Nicole Foulke