Composting option coming for University of Iowa Hospitals cafeteria diners

New effort could boost production of compost, reduce landfill methane

The University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics will start next week offering food composting for visitors at six dining rooms at the 14-acre health care campus.

The Gazette reported Jan. 20 that UIHC Food and Nutrition Services wasted $181,000 of food in 2012. The waste amounted to 12 percent of prepared food in the operation that serves 10,000 meals a day.

The hospital announced in February it would eliminate Styrofoam and nonrecyclable plastic from its cafeterias, allowing waste to be composted, rather than trashed at the landfill.

Starting March 28, the hospital will provide compost bins in each dining area so employees and visitors can sort out leftover food, carry-out containers, paper sacks, straws, silverware, coffees cups and other items for composting.

All employees of UIHC are encouraged to participate in the new composting program, said a memo that went out to hospital employees last week.

UIHC compost will be taken to the Iowa City Landfill, which has been composting food since 2007. The landfill, which sells the compost, has run out in recent years because of the popularity of the nutrient-rich material for gardens and landscaping.

Reducing food waste in the landfill can also decrease production of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, the UIHC memo states.The hospital also asks employees to bring their own cups to use at ice and water dispensers and to avoid choosing food in take-out containers if they plan to eat it in the dining room.