OU Housing and Food makes food waste more eco-friendly
A new technology is helping to lessen Couch Cafeteria’s impact on area landfills.
The Organic Refuse Conversion Alternative food processor is located in the cafeteria’s dish room and converts food waste into nutrient-rich water that can be deposited directly into the sewer system instead of being transported to landfills.
Kingsley Burns, The Oklahoma Daily
AT A GLANCE
Organic Refuse Conversion Alternative processor price: $25,000
Purpose: Conversion of food into gray water
Gray water uses: Can be reused for landscape irrigation
The processor, which was installed during the fall semester, works specifically with food that is scraped off plates and into trash cans, OU Director of Board Operations Frank Henry said.
Once the processor is in use, an auger churns the waste while enzyme-rich water breaks down the food, Henry said.
Before a new machine is used, it must be filled with water, inoculated and allowed to sit for a number of days, Director of Housing and Food Services David Annis said.
Black pellets within the machine house bacteria, which breaks down the food and converts the waste into gray water, Annis said. Once the process is complete, the water is safe to deposit in the sewer system.
The processor uses an “eco-friendly ... biological process to digest organic food waste,” converting it into gray water within 24 hours, according to the website of Totally Green, the company that produces the machines.
“You won’t see anything like this in public schools yet,” Henry said. “This is pretty much cutting-edge technology.”
Couch Cafeteria’s processor is one of 50 such machines that have been installed in federal buildings across the country, but OU is the only university in Oklahoma that currently has one, Annis said.
As of now, there are no plans to install additional machines on campus, although Housing and Food has looked at machines that are similar but convert food waste into mulch instead of gray water, Henry said.
“It’s the first step in what we see as an environmental movement within Housing and Food Services,” Henry said.
Students throwing away their own food present challenges as to how similar machines would work in the Oklahoma Memorial Union and other restaurants across campus, Annis said.
However, Housing and Food is in the process of finding solutions in order to present students with the option of contributing to more environmentally conscious practices while on campus, Annis said.