April 14, 2021

UNL Diverts 44,000 kg of Food Waste from Landfills

UNL Diverts 44,000 kg of Food Waste from Landfills

University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) is Nebraska’s oldest university and the flagship institution of the University of Nebraska system. The university has around 26000 students enrolled and 1400 staff members. There are three campuses that total 2,815 acres.

Industry: Higher Education

Location: United States

University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) is Nebraska’s oldest university and the flagship institution of the University of Nebraska system. The university has around 26000 students enrolled and 1400 staff members. There are three campuses that total 2,815 acres.

In 2019, David Annis joined UNL as the Director of Dining Services, a job he had dreamed of for decades. He immediately began to implement new ideas such as increasing food options on campus, creating flexible meal plans, sourcing fresher food, and expanding services to students.

Having previously purchased an LFC biodigester at University of Oklahoma, David felt that it was the most suitable and sustainable onsite organic waste solution. “For our sustainability goals, it just makes sense,” David commented about the LFC biodigester. “We don’t have the ability to have a big compost pile anywhere close, and composting involves a lot of labor, so this seems to be the next best thing.”

Since the installation of two LFC biodigesters, UNL has gone above and beyond their sustainability goals – diverting 44,000 kg (98,000 lb) of food waste from landfills in the first year of deployment. 

Becoming a Leader in Environmental Stewardship on University Campuses

Before installing the LFC biodigesters in UNL’s Selleck and Cather dining halls, the disposal of food waste followed a complex process. Without separating the food waste from plastics, the garbage is placed in the same bag and painstakingly hauled by the custodial staff into garbage bins. The garbage bins would sometimes overflow and attract pests and animals. These bins would be hauled out and carried away by trucks where it would be dumped into landfills and decay into methane gas.

UNL briefly considered composting as their main method of food waste management but ultimately decided against it due to lack of resources, space, budget and intensity of labor. The implementation and function of the LFC biodigester has been a valuable and relatively hassle-free method of observing how much food waste can be eliminated within specific dining halls on campus.

After installing the LFC biodigester into UNL’s dining halls, there has been a notable impact on reducing food waste that otherwise would have been sent to the landfill. Additionally, the diversion from the landfill has also eliminated greenhouse gas emissions that would have resulted from transportation and decomposition of the food waste. With the LFC biodigesters, UNL has diverted 44,000 kg (98,000 lb) of food waste from landfills and reduced Nebraska’s carbon footprint by 95 tons in less than a year.

Data Driven Analytics

The LFC biodigester comes with lifetime access to the LFC Cloud, Power Knot’s revolutionary continuous data analytics system which shows statistics on usage, diagnostics, and service schedules. David is able to track and view the amount of organic waste digested on an hourly, daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly basis.

UNL LFC Cloud Stats

UNL also can observe analytics on waste ingested, carbon reduction, and hourly average ingestion time. Information on both LFC biodigesters can be aggregated into a single report.

Jennifer Gilbert, a UNL student was able to view and access this information with David’s help and use it in her honor thesis on The Role of University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Biodigester on Sustainable Food Waste Reduction within Selleck Dining Center.

Clear ROI and Cost Savings

The simple onsite food waste management solution and clear, quantifiable data from the LFC Cloud has proven the LFC biodigester to be the sustainable choice for waste management at UNL. The payback on an LFC biodigester is less than two years. Additionally, simplifying the food waste disposal process has created multiple areas where UNL saves money:

  • Garbage bag costs
  • Time and Labor
  • General Waste Handling 
  • Waste handling for oversized bins and overtime required  
  • Worker’s Compensation

UNL has subsequently ordered two additional LFC biodigesters. 

“We still have three dining centers that don’t have them,” David said. “We had hoped that we’d have a couple more in over the summer, but COVID sort of changed everyone’s plans, and we just didn’t have the resources at that point to be able to do that. But it’s still on the back burner, and we’ll get to them as soon as we can.”

Power Knot