Frequently Asked Questions

What is FRESH?

FRESH stands for “Focused Research Effort for Sustainable Habits”. As mentioned in the name, FRESH is a research effort by WIST (Wisconsin Institute for Sustainable Technology) taking place on the UWSP campus for the 2011-2012 academic year. The goal of FRESH is to implement and study a collection and chemical recycling process for PLA plastics used at campus dining facilities.

What is the significance of FRESH?

FRESH is a first-of-its-kind research effort that will serve as a demonstration project for other campuses and organizations in Wisconsin and across the country. FRESH will be collecting data throughout the 2011-2012 academic year on information about recovery rates, contamination rates and costs. This data will be compiled and evaluated after the 2011-2012 academic year to determine the environmental sustainability and the economic feasibility of clear PLA product use at UWSP. Surveys will also be used to understand how the student body responds to the FRESH educational/marketing campaign.

What is WIST?

WIST is the Wisconsin Institute for Sustainable Technology. It is located on the UWSP campus. Click here for more information.

What is PLA?

Refer to our Research page.

How long has UWSP been purchasing PLA plastic ware for campus dining facilities?

Since Fall 2009.

What is the cost of PLA plastic ware versus petroleum based plastic ware?

Currently the price of PLA plastic ware is approximately 40% higher than the price of traditional petroleum based plastic ware. The price of petroleum based plastic ware is quite volatile, tracking closely the price of a barrel of oil. Depending on that price, bio-based plastics become more or less competitive with traditional petroleum based plastics.

If these products are compostable, why isn’t UWSP just composting the clear PLA plastic ware waste?

Clear PLA plastic ware waste is compostable only under industrial composting conditions. Industrial composting conditions occur when there is high heat from an active microbial community, high moisture from proper maintenance and high volumes of organic materials. Currently, UWSP doesn’t have industrial composting capability. This is why FRESH is implementing a recycling system on campus to try and manage the clear PLA plastic ware waste in more sustainable way than sending it to a landfill, where it is unlikely to breakdown.

Why were there signs in the DUC last year that had pictures of the PLA products and stated “I’m compostable, throw me in the trash”?

Composting is not a process that is likely to occur in a landfill, which is where trash ends up. However, PLA products cannot at the moment be recycled with the regular plastic stream. The signs in the DUC were put up to discourage people from placing PLA waste in with plastics recycling.

How is FRESH funded?

FRESH is being supported by WIST and through a grant from the Wisconsin State Energy Office.

What is FRESH’s position on the discussion surrounding food crops such as corn being used for non-food purposes?

Quite simply, no one knows the answer to the question “How should corn be used most efficiently in the US?”—which is why there is discussion and debate. This is part of the purpose of FRESH; to research and investigate the use of corn-based plastic, specifically on the UWSP campus.