Research Projects

Exploring the Potential for Reusable Take-Out Packaging in Maine

Despite state-initiated goals to reduce waste, Maine’s per-capita waste production rate has increased over the past five years. A major source of this waste comes from food packaging and restaurant to-go services. This research project examines how reusable packaging systems can help mitigate waste from restaurant to-go services and seeks to understand the costs and benefits of implementing reusable packaging. To view the Reusable Packaging Resource Guide, click here.

Lead Investigators: Cynthia Isenhour, Jared Entwistle
Sponsor: Senator George J. Mitchell Center for Sustainability Solutions

Food Waste Management: Empowering Maine Businesses Toward Sustainability

The Mitchell Center’s Materials Management team has brought together a diverse group of waste management stakeholders to collaboratively imagine how the state might make more progress toward its waste reduction and recycling goals, with the single most important issue for ensuring a more sustainable system being the reduction of food waste and getting organics out of the landfill.

Lead Investigator: Susanne Lee
Sponsor: Senator George J. Mitchell Center for Sustainability Solutions

Rethinking Reuse and Resilience in Depleted Rural America

Historically, Maine citizens have possessed a strong culture of reuse. Transfer station “take-it” shops, antique stores, and online peer-to-peer sales comprise just a few of the ways in which Mainers participate in the reuse economy. This study seeks to under those connections better through the studying the lens of sustainable development and economic resilience building.

Lead Investigator: Cindy Isenhour
Sponsor: National Science Foundation

Risks of Food Waste Recovery

To approach a more sustainable food system in the United States, our system must become more energy, water and material-efficient. The ideal model is a circular food system that eliminates waste by returning nutrients to agricultural soils while minimizing water and energy use. As we move towards organic waste recovery and nutrient recycling, we must plan for emerging risks that may compromise the safety of a more circular food system.

Lead Investigator: Jean MacRae
Sponsor: Environmental Research & Education Foundation

Making Maine’s Local Food System Sustainable: Opportunities to Address Hunger and Reduce Waste

This project builds and expands on the 2018 Food Waste Reduction project which was focused on food loss, food waste, and barriers to establishing a circular food system and environmental sustainability while addressing food insecurity. This project will expand on the earlier project to include: a) University of Maine System (UMS) students’ active engagement in an interdisciplinary undergraduate collaborative team led by undergraduate students who participated in the Food Waste Reduction project; and b) UMS students’ participating in all phases of research.

Lead Investigator: Deborah Saber
Sponsor: Interdisciplinary Undergraduate Research Collaborative (IURC)

Food Waste Reduction

The ultimate goal of the Diana Davis Spencer Partnership for a Sustainable Maine is to develop, implement and evaluate solutions to complex problems requiring a careful balance between economic development and environmental preservation. The central element of the project’s solutions strategy is to inspire and equip a new generation of engaged, entrepreneurial citizens by providing students with transformative, hands-on experiences in the power of innovative partnerships to create a brighter future.  

Lead Investigators: Cindy Isenhour, Deborah Saber
Sponsors: Diana Davis Spencer Foundation, UMaine Interdisciplinary Undergraduate Research Collaborative (IURC)