Last December, Michigan State University was faced with quite the conundrum. Freezing temperatures compromised the stores of mayonnaise for its dining services -- 500 2.5-gallon containers of the stuff. It wasn't spoiled, but it wasn't usable either.
Usually when food products are not quite right, the MSU Food Stores donates them to the local food bank, but because of the lower quality and the huge amount, that wasn't an option. It was also too much mayo to just throw out and waste.
Luckily, the school has sustainability officers tasked with curbing waste that came up with a great idea. The university has an anaerobic digester that helps to power farm areas and buildings on the south side of campus.The high sugar and fat in mayonnaise made it the perfect fuel for the digester, which processes thousands of tons of food waste every year.
“The decision was actually fairly easy,” said MSU Culinary Services Sustainability Officer Cole Gude to The State News. “It was a perfect situation to turn what could have been a catastrophe into something positive for the university.”
Over one day, a team of 12 staff members spent eight hours dumping the containers into the dumpster that held the digester's food stock. After pouring the mayo from each carton, the team had to take all of them back to a kitchen to clean the excess mayo out to get the containers ready for recycling.
“Mayonnaise was getting all over, some carpet was getting smeared and we all had dress clothes on,” said Residential and Hospitality Services Sustainability officer Carla Iansiti. “This was not anticipated at all.”
Though the work was messy and time-consuming, the team felt good about making something positive out of a lot of bad mayonnaise and, thanks to them, for a brief time some buildings on the south side of campus ran on mayo power.