1,250 Gallons of Ruined MSU Mayo

1,250 Gallons of Ruined MSU Mayo

Have you ever wondered what 1,250 gallons of mayonnaise looked like in a dumpster? Yeah, neither did I. However, because of one ruined shipment of mayo I would soon learn.

On December 2nd 500 2.5-gallon containers of mayo arrived to Michigan State University frozen, this makes the product unusable by MSU’s standards. MSU food stores was facing a tough decision about what to do; should it be thrown away, or should it be recycled somehow? The answer was the university’s anaerobic digester which allows for food waste to be turned into energy that is then used on campus. The food types that it runs best off of? Fats, and sugars…a.k.a mayonnaise.

The decision was simple, but the process? Not so much. The dirty (and smelly) work was about to begin.

The first step to recycling 500 2.5-gallon containers of mayonnaise was to empty a majority of its contents into our large food waste dumpsters at the MSU Recycling Center. This took a team of 11 people about 2 hours to complete. Every time a new container was dumped all the mayo already in the dumpster jiggled like gelatin. It smelled about as bad as you might imagine 1,250 gallons of mayo would smell.

The second step was to rinse any residual mayo off the plastic containers so that they could also be recycled. This meant that four RHS Sustainability team members (including myself) had to spend four hours manually rinsing out plastic containers and then running them through Hubbard dining hall’s dish washer to ensure that there was as little contamination as possible. I smelled like mayo for a week after we were finished, my girlfriend (a self-proclaimed mayo hater) was very unhappy.

Finally, all the empty containers were bagged up and brought back to the MSU Recycling Center.

Now why go through all the trouble you might ask?

Roughly 1/3 of all food produced in the world goes to waste according to the Food and Agriculture Organization, that’s about 1.3 billion pounds. So when there is an opportunity like this to use food waste positively, there really is no such thing as a job “too messy.”

Sustainability often times boils down to doing what’s right, even if it’s messy, and smells really…REALLY bad.



Cole Gude
MSU Culinary Services Sustainability Officer   
Residential and Hospitality Services
908 Akers Rd Room 250
Michigan State University
Work 517-884-0626