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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Success with Compostable Food Service Ware - USDA Cafeteria Uses Biobased Products

Authors
item Millner, Patricia
item Green, Mike - USDA-DA
item Green, Rosalie - SEE FOR EPA
item Romero, Marian - USDA-DA
item Townsend, Randall
item Love, Shana - USDA-DA

Submitted to: Biocycle
Publication Type: Trade Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: August 8, 2006
Publication Date: August 21, 2006
Citation: Millner, P.D., Green, M., Green, R., Romero, M., Townsend, R.K., Love, S. 2006. Success with compostable food service ware - usda cafeteria uses biobased products. Biocycle. 23-26.

Interpretive Summary: This report describes USDA’s biobased cafeteria-ware pilot project, including operational strategies, costs, outcomes and lessons learned. The 3 month pilot project was conducted in USDA’s Whitten building employee cafeteria. During the pilot, 33,426 patrons were served. In general, patrons easily accepted the change from the typical Styrofoam and plasticware to products manufactured from biobased feedstock. Cafeteria operations and services were not adversely impacted by the change to biobased products. The pilot included a wide variety of biobased products. These products, along with food scraps from the cafeteria and leaves that were added at the composting site, were then composted by the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and are being used in the USDA Whitten Building gardens in 2006. Biobased products for the pilot cost overall per place setting averaged 12-cents, which is 3 times the cost of the current contractor-provided styrafoam and plastic items. The pilot was a coordinated effort among different agencies within USDA, including staff from the Department’s Departmental Administration, ARS, Agricultural Marketing Service, and the current contractor for the USDA cafeteria. In addition to USDA representatives, Dr. Rosalie Green, SEA Associate from the Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Solid Waste, also participated in educating and training the USDA cafeteria staff and customers on what to include and exclude from the biodegradable collection bins relative to food preparation trimmings, expired foods, and post-consumer residuals. The pilot was an overall success in that many biobased products were used and found to be acceptable, and the full-cycle process of food production, consumption, and recycling to soil for plant growth was successful. Biobased cafeteriaware options are viable from both the customer and compostability perspectives. This finding has impacted the development of the department’s new food service solicitation.

Technical Abstract: This report describes USDA’s overall concept and expectations for its biobased cafeteria-ware pilot project, including operational strategies, costs, outcomes and lessons learned. The 3 month pilot project was conducted in USDA’s Whitten building employee cafeteria. This venue gave USDA a controlled environment that allowed for quick identification of problems and increased ability to correct them rapidly, effectively, and with minimal disruption to staff and customer service. During the pilot, 33,426 patrons were served. In general, patrons easily accepted the change from the typical Styrofoam and plasticware to products manufactured from biobased feedstock. In fact, fewer that 150 negative complaints were registered. Cafeteria operations and services were not adversely impacted by the change to biobased products. The pilot included a wide variety of biobased products. These products, along with food scraps from the cafeteria and leaves that were added at the composting site, were composted by the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and were used in the USDA Whitten Building gardens in 2006. Biobased products for the pilot cost $14,367.42 with total freight charges of $952.83. USDA’s part of the overall cost was 66% or $9482.50 and the cafeteria contractor’s portion was 33% of or $4884.92. The team that conducted the pilot was very diverse. The pilot team consisted of representatives from the Department’s Departmental Administration, ARS, Agricultural Marketing Service, and the current contractor for the USDA cafeteria. In addition to USDA representatives, Dr. Rosalie Green, SEA Associate from the Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Solid Waste, also participated in educating and training the USDA cafeteria staff and customers on what to include and exclude from the biodegradable collection bags relative to food preparation trimmings, expired foods, and post-consumer residuals. The pilot was an overall success in that many biobased products were used and found acceptable, and the full-cycle process of food production, consumption, and recycling to soil for plant growth was accomplished for the first time within the federal establishment in the Nation's capital. Biobased cafeteriaware options are viable from both the customer and compostability perspectives. This finding has impacted the development of the department’s new food service solicitation.

Last Modified: 4/20/2014
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