News Ohio University

Food from OU dining halls will be diverted to school’s composting unit

By Gabriel Weinstein

Ohio University’s Office of Sustainability has met its goal of adding dining hall food waste to the workload of the university composting machine by fall 2009.

The composter only processed food waste from OU’s Central Foods Facility when it was brought online in January. It now processes about two tons of food waste each day from Baker University Center, Nelson Dining Hall and the Central Foods Facility, officials said.

Sustainability Coordinator Sonia Marcus said the composter will process waste from more dining halls once the Office of Sustainability compiles data about the machine’s maximum capacity. OU will examine the composter’s production when the facility’s one-year cycle concludes at the end of the year.

Although the Office of Sustainability’s Web site said the machine might eventually divert up to 25 percent of OU’s landfill waste, Marcus was unable to provide statistics as to what percent of campus waste the composter currently processes.

“We won’t know what percentage of waste we have composted and how this figure relates to overall waste on campus until one full year cycle has been completed,” Marcus said.

As the amount of waste processed by the composter has grown, so has the machine’s maintenance staff. Originally, equipment operator Greg King was the only employee responsible for the composter. Now six OU student interns help King to operate and maintain the machine. The interns also collect compostable waste.

The university’s plan to use compost has materialized, as compost has been used in various on-campus projects this fall.

“Older compost, as well as newer food compost, has been used in landscaping and in soil beds on campus,” Marcus said.

Although the composter has been successful, Marcus said the university has no current plans to sell compost.  Marcus was reluctant to sell the compost when the idea was orginally proposed.

“I’d like to focus on improving soil quality around campus first before selling compost,” she said.

Marcus is pleased by the composter’s initial success, but she hopes the machine’s early achievements will be only the beginning of a new era in OU’s environmental policy.

“I’d like to reduce the amount of waste we send to landfills and greenhouse gases we produce,” she said.

Marcus hopes OU’s composter will serve as a model for other colleges and universities as well as spur interest among OU students and Athens residents.

The facility, located at 187 Dairy Lane, will also be in the spotlight when the Ohio Solar Tour, a traveling effort by Green Energy Ohio to highlight sustainable living practices, visits OU this fall.

The composter is one of 12 local sites to be featured by the Solar Tour as examples of conscience environmental living. The facility will be open to the public from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 3 as part of the tour’s festivities.

4 Comments

  1. Ok 25% of landfill waste is an impressive figure, would not surprise me if it is spot on too. That’s a very good idea to compost the food waste from dining halls, that should be required of all schools.

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