By Collen V Mabaso
With ten functioning dining halls at Rhodes University catering for more than three thousand students daily, it is good to question whether there are any sustainable environmental practices utilised at our fine institution.
Nine to ten billion of tonnes of food go to waste in South Africa annually. With three meals served each day at Rhodes, it is safe to say that food waste is unavoidable, particularly during lunch and supper.
Mr Simon Wright, the Acting Food Services and Administration for the Rhodes gave us told us about some of the things the dining halls are doing in order to be more environmentally friendly:
1. The dining hall left overs are given to Grahamstown pork farmers to feed to their stock. Each hall has its own farm and the farmers collect the waste daily. It could indicate that many Rhodes’ resident students do not eat all of their their food if there is a great supply of left overs for the pig farmers.
2. For used food that passes down the drain they use a chemical which breaks down the oils before they reach the town’s mainstream drainage system.
3. According to Wright each tray in the dining hall costs R100. Currently they are running a test with PG Glass Grahamstown in which they spray the broken trays with a glass/plastic-like material which closes the holes and strengthens the tray, thus acting as a form of recycling and waste reduction method.
4. Used oils amounting to approximately 1000L per month are donated to Dr. Garth Cambray, who uses it to make biofuel.
5. The food packaging materials are recycled, especially cardboards.
6. Each dining hall has a health and safety representative to facilitate the running and wellbeing of the dining hall.
Despite the measures that the university has taken to help the environment and limit the eco-footprint of the dining hall systems, there is room for improvement. The use of clean energy is something to look into, with gas currently being used to cook food for the staff and students. Another avenue to explore that may help is the setting up of training workshops for the staff on healthy environmental practices. This would be beneficial in the long run and perhaps inspire those involved in the cooking process to be more environmentally conscious.
Overall though, it is good to see that Rhodes University is making an effort to help the environment and move towards a somewhat greener future.