ARAMARK, the previous food service provider at Emerson, failed to compost its food waste during the last months of its contract, according to a former ARAMARK employee. The alleged failure would indicate the company deceived administrators and students, who said they thought ARAMARK was managing its food waste in a sustainable way.
While disposing of food waste in an ecologically-friendly manner was not part of ARAMARK’s contract with Emerson, the college had made an agreement with that company in an effort to advance its institutional commitment to creating a sustainable campus, according to Jay Phillips, associate vice president for facilities and campus services.
“I spoke to them about the importance of composting and they did it at their own expense with [Environmental Operations Management Services] with the understanding that we would discuss adding it to the contract in following years,” wrote Phillips in an email to the Beacon. EOMS is a recycling and food waste removal company that provides composting services, which transforms organic waste into a nutrient-rich soil supplement.
The former ARAMARK employee, who insisted on anonymity because of confidential ongoing negotiations that could be compromised , said he worked at the dining hall for three years as a server in the home cooking station, where he said most of the food waste came from. To compost the food in his station, all leftovers had to be placed in small plastic bins that were later taken to a dumpster, which EOMS would haul to a composting facility.
“[Composting] was a thing that people did for a little bit, and then everyone just got lax on it because it was a pain,” said the former employee.
Phillips said he was under the impression that ARAMARK was composting until the very end of its contract, which expired July 31.
Melissa Amaral, director of sustainability and marketing at Sodexo, said she found out in early August that EOMS had not been picking up waste at the college.
“When I contacted the composting company to set up our composting, they said they haven’t been picking up at the school,” she said. “I’m not sure for how long, but they said, ‘for a while.’”
The former ARAMARK server said there were nights when he would throw away several hundred pounds of food, but could not attest to how much waste other stations disposed of. He said he doesn’t believe that composting was ever effectively implemented in the dining hall.
“I know after a little while the compost bins were phased out, I think partially because they smelled,” he said of those in the home cooking station. “After that, there was just nothing happening related to composting. There wasn’t even an attempt to make it seem like we were.”
Some students were under the impression that ARAMARK was fulfilling its commitment to sustainability, which it promoted on its website.
“We expected something from them,” said Kaela Holmes, president of Earth Emerson. “It is very upsetting, but I hope things are going to be different under Sodexo.”
Earth Emerson, a student organization of eco-activists, began pushing for composting initiatives on campus two years ago, according to Holmes, a senior journalism major.
Lindsay Geller, a junior writing, literature, and publishing and marketing communication double major, said she also hopes that Sodexo will do a better job.
“I don’t like the fact that it was incredibly dishonest,” said Geller, the sustainability commissioner for the Student Government Association. “It just really shows the character of that company. Sustainability-wise, I’m glad that ARAMARK didn’t get rehired.”
According to Phillips, composting is required under Sodexo’s contract.
This summer, Emerson hired Eric Van Vlandren as its first-ever campus sustainability coordinator, who will collect and report on energy sustainability data among other duties. Although the alleged ARAMARK composting failure happened before Van Vlandren was hired, he said he will make sure this doesn’t happen in the future by building a close relationship with Sodexo.
“I need to constantly be working with them in a way where we can always be constantly improving,” he said. “If we can develop a culture where we both have the same goals, and we are both committed to cost and improvement, then it helps us both out.”
ARAMARK could not be reached for comment.