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EDITORIAL: U. can do more to mitigate its waste

Students should be knowledgable about how to reduce trash

Americans are an undoubtedly wasteful people, and much of this wastefulness has manifested itself in what has seemingly become an era of disposability and convenience. Food is cheaper in the United States than it is in most other places in the world, which may seemingly contribute to an ungrateful attitude with regard to it. Considering how easy it is to get, it is reasonable to say that Americans are rather picky about what they eat and the way it looks. For example, if an apple has a small bruise on it, most Americans might just throw it away rather than suffer discomfort from consuming it. In fact, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates that supermarkets dispose of approximately $15 billion worth of unsold fruits and vegetables each year. Additionally, between 30 and 40 percent of the food supply in the U.S. per year is wasted — or approximately $160 billion worth. To boot, food waste is the largest contributor to America’s landfills and the third largest source of methane in the United States — which is important to note because of methane’s harsh impact on the atmosphere. Combined with all of the other things so conveniently disposed of, such as paper, plastic plates and utensils, the amount of garbage the United States generates is alarming. 

The mitigation of the magnitude of America’s waste is not rocket science and can have an enormous impact on the well-being of our country. The food that is discarded could have been used to feed hungry families rather than sent to rot in landfills. To grow, process and produce food, enormous amounts of land, water, energy and labor are used — land, water, energy and labor that are wasted when 30 to 40 percent of the product are thrown away. With these things said, it is obvious that sustainable practices are not just ideal, but necessary. With sustainability comes efficiency, and efficiency is a characteristic that the United States could use. 

As a school of more than 50,000 students, Rutgers is bound to produce garbage and waste at an incredible rate. In terms of food waste alone, according to Dining Services our dining halls go through 83,008 16-inch pizzas, 244,772 pounds of bananas, 6,396 gallons of vanilla ice cream and 53,740 pounds of penne per year. Thankfully, in the past decade Rutgers has been doing its part to reduce its impact. 

One good step that Rutgers made in the past couple of years was the introduction of the Cupanion, a reusable water bottle given out to students which was meant to reduce the use of styrofoam cups, paper waxed cups, lids and straws. Amazingly, just in the Spring 2017 semester Dining Services saved 300,000 cups, straws and lids from being sent to landfills. 

Dining Services also has access to a Vegawatt generator, which is a modified diesel engine that is capable of burning vegetable oil. Busch Dining Hall is able to use the Vegawatt to generate electricity and hot water — saving energy. 

In terms of unused food, much of it is ground up and given to pig farmers to be used as slop — which is better than it being sent to landfills. Additionally, and maybe more importantly, some is donated to Rutgers’ certified donation locations which include the Rutgers Student Food Pantry, Elijah’s Promise, local Catholic charities and the New Life Food Pantry. With that said, students are only able to donate two unused meal swipes at the end of each semester — there must be some way to allow them to donate more. The fact that they can only donate two seems like a waste of both money and food. 

It is heartening to see Rutgers doing its part to help mitigate the effects of waste production, but more can no doubt be done. This is an issue that all students at Rutgers should know and care about. This is something all students really can easily help with simply because of how easy it is — being sure to recycle and not over-consume are good places to start.  


The Daily Targum's editorials represent the views of the majority of the 150th editorial board. Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.

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