We run composting initiatives on campus, collecting waste from both the dining facilities on campus and our student housing. Our compost committee processes pre-consumer waste on campus that is made into fertilizer for Long Lane Farm and sends post-consumer waste to a local industrial processing facility. We also work to encourage student waste reduction on campus through various events and outreach.
We recycle all student food waste through our composting program in order to transform waste into compost. We are proud of the growth of our program as we have been producing more and more compost every year through both our on campus composting in our Earth Tubs and our work with a local industrial composting facility Harvesting Greencycle. It is most exciting to see how many students are seeking to compost in their residences and the tremendous support of our dining services in helping to repurpose our food waste.
We coordinate with the Sustainability Office and Physical Plant to have daily pickups Mon-Fri and Sun of pre-consumer and post-consumer food waste from our main dining facilities on campus. The weekday runs are carried out by hired staff and the Sunday runs are completed by paid composting interns as well as student composting volunteers. Paid composting interns and composting volunteers also complete weekly runs to collect food waste from residential composting backyard bins around campus. Individual student houses, apartments, and dorms are provided with small buckets to collect personal food scraps and then students dump buckets into the larger campus bins from which compost committee members collect the waste to be processed in our Earth Tubs.
MISTAKES & LESSONS LEARNED
Until April 2015, we had no outlets within the state of CT to bring "compostable" products (plates, cutlery, cups, etc.), which led to frustration and confusion. Although the off-site facility where we bring our post-consumer compost will now take "compostable" products, only certain products (plates, cups, and bowls) are accepted; cutlery isn't accepted because it takes so long to break down. We have been trying to pay more attention to what types of compostable products we use on campus and to ways in which we can make sure these goods are disposed of properly so that they can be successfully composted. We have also had difficulty dealing with freezing of food waste in the winter months, which results in difficulty maintaining normal composting pickups throughout the winter. Our Earth Tubs are nearly 20 years old, so have a lot of challenges (dying motors, sinking lids that let in water, etc.). If anybody has any thoughts on ways to ensure more successful composting in these colder months, we would love to hear your ideas!
We hope to expand our efforts to include not just our main dining hall areas but also our smaller dining facilities. This expansion would require a lot more time and people involved and so we are contemplating different ways of making this expansion feasible in the next few years. We are also looking into larger in vessel composting units that could handle all compostable waste (pre and post-consumer) on campus. Because larger in vessel units are quite expensive, we're looking for grant opportunities for funding and are considering sending our post-consumer food waste to an anaerobic digestion facility (which will open in early 2016) in the meantime to reduce costs.