Statler eateries make it easy to go green

With the start of the 2013-14 academic year, the Statler Hotel expanded its composting and recycling program with the goal of capturing 100 percent of compostable and recyclable items served at Mac’s Café and Terrace Restaurant. With anywhere from 2,150 to 2,600 customers served weekdays at the two quick-service eateries, the Statler has an opportunity to divert at least 449 metric tons of waste from landfills each year. That’s the equivalent of 303 dumpsters.

“We began composting at Mac’s and Terrace in 2006, focusing only on the food scraps from the kitchens. Five years ago, we added composting bins to our dining rooms, where guests could compost their food waste and paper products. But only a portion of the front-of-house compostable items ended up at the compost facility because non-compostable items contaminated the remaining bags,” said Rick Adie ’75, general manager of the Statler Hotel. “The real challenge was making waste separation easy for our guests.”

The Statler’s new program is all about simplicity. This summer the purchasing department changed procurement procedures so that nearly everything now served at Mac’s and Terrace is compostable. This includes serving containers, utensils, cups, food wraps, and more. The few branded products that are packaged outside the building—think soda and juice bottles, potato chip bags, and candy wrappers—are the only items destined for the recycling bin or landfill.

“By minimizing the number of non-compostable items we serve, we are able to simplify the disposal process,” said Travis Virgadamo, purchasing and receiving manager. “Clear signage above the waste bins and on the dining tables clarifies what few items need to stay out of the compost bins.”

Since the start of the fall semester, the Statler has averaged a 90 percent acceptance rate from Farm Services, the Cornell facility that processes the compost.

“We’re making good process,” said Adie. “Now we are trying to educate guests on the importance of taking the time to separate their waste. An entire bag of compostable items can end up in the landfill if even a few non-compostable items get mixed in. If guests don’t want to take time to separate their waste, we’re asking that they place their refuse in the landfill container and keep it out of the recycling and compost streams.”