Back on the 'menu'?

Company starts polystyrene recycling program at Penn State.

For those of you who, like me, believed that polystyrene recycling was virtually dead in non-commercial foodservice, apparently it still has a pulse. I received a press release late Wednesday afternoon from Dart Container Corp. announcing that the campus dining program at Penn State University is working with Dart to recycle polystyrene.

The effort, the newest part of Penn State’s sustainability initiative, will take place in the university’s dining commons as well as several retail outlets. Bins into which students and other customers can dump their polystyrene will be installed in foodservice facilities, The polystyrene will be collected and sent to the university’s Office of Physical Plant, which has a recycling center. OPP employees will condense the polystyrene, which will then be picked up at Dart and taken to its headquarters, in nearby Lancaster, Pa., to be melted down and made into other useful articles.

I’ve not yet had a chance to talk with Penn State officials about this, so I’ll have more in the days to come. Back in the late 1980s, polystyrene recycling was hailed as the next “big thing” in the environmental movement. The petroleum-based material was going to collected in great quantities and remade into thousands of useful articles such as park benches.

The reality, as it turned out, was that it apparently cost more to collect and process the polystyrene than was profitable. So the initiative slowly seemed to die away. I know in New York City, where dozens of items are listed as “must recycles,” polystyrene is no longer in favor. Does this move by Penn State signal a swinging of the pendulum back in a positive direction? We’ll see.

Keywords: 
sustainability

More From FoodService Director

Ideas and Innovation
vote buttons pins

On every other Thursday of our four-week cycle menu, we allow K-8 students to pick the entree choices. The media center specialist for each of the participating schools sets up the list of entree items on a computer for voting, and the winning entrees are given to cafeteria managers two weeks before the upcoming month to put into production. Students really like this, as it promotes ownership of the menu.

Ideas and Innovation
chalkboard

We highlight our North Carolina products on a large chalkboard in our dining halls, and also list any produce we bring in from our own agroecology farm. It helps tell our story—positive and local.

Ideas and Innovation
raised garden beds

We have raised garden beds that residents can reserve and use to grow their own plants. Whenever a resident brings me fresh produce from their own garden, I try and incorporate it into a dish. If I do end up using it, I will display the resident’s name and what the produce was next to the dish on the menu.

Ideas and Innovation
chartwells teaching kids

Curriculum for the mobile teaching kitchen centers around a single kid-friendly recipe, using ingredients that can provide talking points for nutrition, sustainability and food origins. “The recipe is the lesson,” Saidel says. “Every ingredient is an opportunity to talk.”

Earlier this year, Saidel, Perkins and Harvey did a student demo featuring roasted chicken and white bean tacos with greens and citrus salsa. “We can say, ‘Why are we using chicken instead of beef? Why are there some beans in here?’ You can talk about plant proteins and the sustainability and health message around...

FSD Resources