Students push Aramark to ramp up sustainability efforts

Morgan Dining Hall has used single-use plastic utensils, plates and cups since its dishwasher broke last year.

Students prepare food with single-use plates and utensils in Morgan Dining Hall on March 11. | JAMIE COTTRELL / THE TEMPLE NEWS

The Students for Environmental Action created a petition on Feb. 27 to make Morgan Dining Hall more environmentally friendly as a part of its yearly campaign to reduce waste in the dining hall.

The organization wants Morgan Dining Hall to stop using single-use plastic utensils, paper plates and bowls. There are more than 800 signatures on the petition, with a goal of 1,000 total signatures.

The petition is addressed to the university’s food service provider Aramark and Endri Baduni, the resident district manager of Temple’s dining services.

SEA has reached out to Aramark directly with its concerns this past year, but the corporation has not proposed any solutions for their concerns.

“The thing with Morgan Dining Hall is that it’s not just Temple, it’s also Aramark,” said Madeline Colker, SEA’s campaign director and a junior English and media studies and production major. “It’s not about just going to a Temple board, there’s this whole other corporation that Temple has ties to.”

Morgan Dining Hall does not have a washing facility on site, which is another reason why the dining hall uses single-use utensils, cups, plates and bowls. Johnson and Hardwick’s Esposito Dining Hall has a dishwashing facility on site.

SEA was told by an Aramark representative that Morgan’s washing machine broke more than a year ago, which is why they started to use single-use dishware, Colker said.

“Now, it’s been a year, and we’re still wondering what happened to the dishwashing machine,” she added.

Aramark is working with the university to resolve the broken dishwasher, and hopes to implement a permanent solution in Fall 2018.

“The current dish machine at Morgan Hall can’t withstand the pressure that would be imposed by using reusable items like Johnson and Hardwick,” Aramark wrote in an email to The Temple News. “The dish machine being out of service due to overuse will seriously jeopardize the sanitation levels of the operation.”

Aramark, which signed a 15-year contract with the university in May 2017, has its own sustainability pledge called Green Thread, which is a four-tier approach to sustainability.

The Green Thread initiative states Aramark is committed to locally sourcing its food whenever possible. It also establishes a mission to start waste minimization and water and energy conservation practices on campus, while reducing its use of fossil fuels in its vehicles that transport food.

Students use disposable plates, bowls and utensils to eat lunch on March 12 in Morgan Dining Hall. | JAMIE COTTRELL / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Aramark wrote that due to its contract with its current composting partner, any waste that is composted must be free from contaminants like paper products, which are used in Morgan Dining Hall. These products aren’t available in Johnson and Hardwick.

Kathleen Grady, Temple’s director of sustainability, wrote in an email that there isn’t a composting facility that can process post-consumer waste including plastic utensils and paper plates, bowls and cups in the region.

SEA is aware of there not being a composting facility that can compost this kind of post-consumer waste, and would like to discuss solutions to this with Aramark.

To reach Aramark, the organization works closely with Sarah Kuchan, Temple Student Government’s director of grounds and sustainability.

Kuchan, a junior environmental science and political science major, communicates with Aramark via email on a monthly basis. Aramark said if it were to make changes, it will consider Kuchan’s suggestions for Morgan Dining Hall’s sustainability procedures.

Since the university signed the contract, TSG has attempted to be involved in Aramark’s sustainability efforts. The company has never implemented any of TSG’s requests, Kuchan said.

Kuchan works closely with SEA’s president Bridget Fisher, and plans to invite her to TSG’s next meeting with Aramark.

Morgan Hall uses plastic silverware, and paper plates and bowls, Grady said.

Morgan Hall only composts pre-consumer waste, which is any material used during the preparation of food, Colker said.

In 2017, 136.5 tons of food material was composted from the Student Center and Johnson and Hardwick’s Dining Hall in 2017, the Office of Sustainability reported. These materials were composted at facilities that can process waste that doesn’t include the paper and plastic, which are used in Morgan Dining Hall.

Every year, SEA starts a campaign that focuses on one issue on campus, Colker said. In previous years, the organization focused on reducing plastic water bottles on campus and placing composting bins in the Student Center.

SEA started planning the waste minimization campaign at the beginning of the academic year, but this semester was when the organization “got the ball rolling,” Colker said.

Grady has given SEA advice in the past on its campaigns, but was unaware of SEA’s waste minimization campaign, she wrote.

The organization created the online petition to reduce waste in Morgan Dining Hall because it wanted to show the number of students who care about this issue.

“We really believe that numbers of student voices speak loudly,” she said.

Students, like Kelsey Mallon, a senior environmental studies major, have shared the petition on social media. Her post gained more than 60 likes and more than 15 shares, she said.

“Morgan’s practices are really unsustainable,” Mallon said. “I think it’s important that students show their concern in how they see Temple having their practices and they want it to be more sustainable.”

“Temple claims to be this sustainable, urban university and I don’t think they’re always covering all of their areas,” she added.

1 Comment

  1. I’ve also worried about the amount of plastic and styrofoam used by lunch trucks every day, not only here at Temple, but at other large institutions. I am happy that places like Ritchie’s Lunchbox use a minimum, if any, plastic and styrofoam. But the majority do not. The world really needs to wean ourselves from these non-biodegradable products and large institutions are a great place to set an example. Kudos to the students raising awareness and making efforts to change.

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