Mountains of food waste at the Postgraduate Teaching Centre

Aaron took as many sandwiches as he could to give to the homeless. Photo credit: Aaron Holdsworth
Forty sandwiches straight into the bin, everyday.

By Jess Warren

Food waste is a rife topic at Cardiff University currently, with a trial food waste scheme rolling out in Cartwright Court, one of Cardiff University’s halls of residence earlier this month on Wednesday, January 2, until Friday, April 12. A scheme pulled together by Nia Jones, Ethical and Environmental officer at CUSU, the Students’ Union, Residences Team and Biffa Waste Services.

However, food waste does not just exist within the home. Earlier this month, Aaron Holdsworth, a visitor to the Postgraduate Teaching Centre, took to Twitter having discovered the Cafe in the building is throwing away approximately 40 pre-packaged sandwiches on a daily basis, when they close at 3.00pm due to the sell-by date.

Aaron stated: “I asked a member of the staff if they were just being thrown away and she sort of giggled and said ‘yes’. So I asked if I could take some to give to homeless people on my way home. She asked another lady who I think was the manager and she said ‘yes, take as many as you like’. I could only fit a few in my rucksack.”

The responsibility for the problem caused some confusion online, as the Cafe engages in the ‘Proud to Serve’ partnership with Costa Coffee, that means all hot drinks are provided by Costa Coffee. However, the food, including sandwiches and cakes are sourced by Cardiff University. This means that the issue of food waste falls to the University and not Costa Coffee.

When asked about the issue, a Cardiff University spokesperson said: “The University effectively manages stock across all of our food outlets in order to minimise levels of food waste.

“For example, sandwich orders are adjusted on a daily basis by each unit to minimise waste. As a result, levels are relatively small in comparison to other local and national food outlets.

“However, there are certain times of the academic year when it does prove difficult to manage. To ensure any food waste can be distributed to those who need it most we have been in contact with a number of food agencies and local charities.

“As we have pockets of small food waste, the challenge remains to find a solution that makes it worthwhile for charities to collect and distribute in an effective and sustainable way.

“That’s why, as part of the University’s new and emerging Food Waste policy, we are actively examining the possibility of using apps like Too Good To Go and Wriggle to develop a solution.

“We remain fully committed to finding a long-term and sustainable solution to our food waste.”

Evidently, the cafe in the Postgraduate Teaching Centre is one of these so-called “pockets of small food waste”, with seemingly poor management of fresh stock, resulting in an oversupply, and generating waste.

Neither the University or Cafe staff were able to explain how long this amount of food waste has been generated for, and what was going to be done to directly solve the problem in this instance.

Back in 2015, the ‘Waste Not Want Not’ volunteer project was set up in CUSU, where students could help redistribute foodstuffs from the Students’ Union and University catering outlets to local homelessness charities. This also included helping with the Cathays Community Fridge project based at Cathays Community Centre – a community fridge where surplus food is shared freely between people in the community.

However, Aaron’s discovery a few weeks ago came at a difficult point in the academic year, with very few students available to help re-distribute any surplus to those in need. Arguably, the unpredictability of student presence in early January is another potential cause of this food surplus. However, it does not excuse the disposal of such sandwiches into the bin, instead of to deserving homes. Throwing surplus food into the bin is a ridiculous waste of resources and causes further environmental damage than handing them out to those in need.

Gair Rhydd also spoke to Nia Jones, Ethical and Environmental Campaign Officer in CUSU, about the issue of food waste, where she stated: “Food waste is an important waste stream to ensure that we get right, as it has a significant impact on our environment.

“Food waste in the SU is currently disposed of sustainably and we are in the process of a food trial in Cartwright Court to extend this sustainability into residences.

“Despite these things – there is always room to improve. If anyone would like to discuss the matter and its importance feel free to email me on [email protected]

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