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How to Use the Hans’ New Food Digester

Weekly Hot Tip

You asked, and Drexel Campus Dining along with Real Estate and Facilities answered. Drexel students have been asking about ways to eliminate food waste and the introduction of composting programs on campus, so a new addition to the Handschumacher Dining Center (the Hans) has been recently implemented that you may have seen before at football stadiums or grocery stores — a BioHiTech digester.

Here’s what you need to know about the new food digester and how it will be used:

Scott Dunham, director of grounds, uses the BioHiTech food digester.
Scott Dunham, director of grounds, uses the BioHiTech food digester.

What is a digester? — A food digester is an accelerated composting machine. It uses bacteria similar to what is found in the human stomach to break down food and turn it into liquid waste, which then goes down the drain instead of in a landfill.

What is composted? — The digester will compost some proteins, grains, veggies and fruits that keep the microorganisms “happy” and the machine performing at its peak. The focus of the Hans’ composting program will be on eliminating waste from inedible food like banana peels, fish bones, fats and spoiled fruit or poultry and, of course, food scraps from meal prep and student leftovers. Drexel Campus Dining donates edible food, such as prepared but unused side dishes or baked items, to Sharing Excess or the Philadelphia Food Recovery Network.

What impact will this have to the University? — The digester can compost an average of 300-600 pounds a day. This could prevent thousands of pounds of inedible food from going to the landfill every month. Having the digester will also reduce the University’s carbon emissions, as the need to haul waste as often will decrease. Lastly, the digester can track how much food is being deposited into it throughout the day. This will allow Drexel’s food service partner, Aramark, to pinpoint times during the week where they could adjust food ordering. They can then utilize this information to make changes to the amount of food that is prepared for each meal service, further reducing waste.

Will students physically see anything or must do anything differently? — Students who are dining in the Hans will simply place their used plates and bowls on the dish return carts, as they always have. The Hans staff will then dispose of proper food waste in the digester.

To learn more about Aramark’s sustainability efforts on campus, visit the Drexel Campus Dining website.

To learn more about additional sustainable operations on Drexel's campuses, including the recycling program, please visit the Real Estate and Facilities website.