School cafeterias are a significant source of food waste and represent an ideal opportunity for diverting food waste from landfills. In this study, cafeteria waste audits were conducted at three Florida schools. Food waste comprised the largest fraction of school cafeteria waste streams, ranging from 47% to 58%, followed by milk, paper products (tissue, milk cartons, pasteboard, paper plates, and cardboard), and plastics (plastic wrap, packaging, and utensils). Metal and glass comprised the smallest fraction of the waste stream. Average total waste generation ranged from 50.5 to 137.6 g·student−1
. The mean generation rates for food waste ranged from 24.7 to 64.9 g·student−1
. The overall average for cafeteria waste generation among all three schools was 102.3 g·student−1
, with food waste alone contributing 52.2 g·student−1
. There are two primary approaches to diverting school food waste from landfills: reduction and recycling. Food waste can be reduced through educating students and staff in order to change behaviors that cause food waste. Food waste can be collected and recycled through composting or anaerobic digestion in order to generate beneficial end products, including soil amendments and bioenergy. Over 75% of the cafeteria waste measured in this study could be recycled in this manner.
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