Composting Finally Takes Shape
Beginning later this year, Bon Appétit will start composting all food remains prepared or eaten at Usdan at an industrial composting facility in Ellington, Conn. Members of the Environmental Organizers’ Network (EON) spearheaded this composting initiative at the end of last semester, and also made plans to place composting machines around campus to facilitate student composting.
“By Thanksgiving break it should hopefully be up and running,” said Melody Oliphant ’13, EON co-coordinator. “A lot of the reason that composting hasn’t started already is because most students aren’t aware of what happens in Usdan with their food waste. A lot of students either think we already compost everything, pre- and post-consumer waste. Or they think that we don’t compost at all.”
Though Bon Appétit already composts pre-consumer materialsfood scraps discarded before the food is cookedat the Long Lane Farm, they are now planning to compost post-consumer food from studentsa plates as well, which amounts to around 2000 pounds of food each week. The post-consumer food waste will be put into compost bins and then transported by trucks from Dainty Rubbish Services to a GreenCycle industrial composting facility in Ellington.
“The new system is designed so that it will be as efficient as possible, but not exactly visible,” Oliphant said. “As a regular student eating in Usdan, you won’t really see a change from what you’re used to, which is how we wanted it to be.”
Students and administrators believe that the composting will not have any financial effect on the University, since Bon Appétit usually trucks food waste to incinerators and will now have it brought to a composting facility instead.
“This proposal should be budget neutral,” wrote Director of Environmental Health, Safety, and Sustainability Bill Nelligan in an e-mail to The Argus. “It will remove a large portion of organics from our waste that would otherwise be incinerated. By composting the material we are supporting local agriculture with sustainable fertilizer.”
Before this new composting system begins, several problems must first be solved.
“We haven’t fully developed the program,” Nelligan said. “Though I would hope to have it in place to start the spring semester, we have many logistical questions that need to be addressed first.”
The food waiting to be composted will be stored in the basement of Usdan, which could lead to Health Code violations if the food sits for too long as it waits to be picked up by Dainty. A system also has to be devised that would allow for the composting bins to come back to Usdan having already been cleaned.
In the future, students hope that Bon Appétit’s post-consumer composting will be done nearer to the University so that the fertilizer produced can be used at Long Lane or on the soil around campus, though this would require much additional planning to figure out efficient ways to compost nearly 3,000 pounds of food waste each week.
“My hope for Wesleyan is that eventually we’ll be composting everything at Long Lane or some location on campus,” Oliphant said. “One of the real benefits of composting is that you can reap the benefits from the fertilizer that you gain from it.”
A student composting plan is also being launched in the coming weeks. Seven green composting machines will be placed around campus to allow students in wood frame houses and apartments to compost their waste.
“This plan will presumably allow all 350 residential units with kitchens to compost,” said Corey Guilmette ’13, who is leading the student composting initiative. “We have the machines and we know where we’re going to put them out, so it should be up and running by mid-November.”
A similar plan was implemented in the past, but it was ultimately unsuccessful because it did not target students with kitchens, and the composting machines were not properly maintained. In order to address this issue, Guilmette will be leading training sessions for students to educate them on what they can and cannot compost.
“The student composting will be maintained by students,” Guilmette said. “Once the machines are filled up, then the usable material will be brought to the Long Lane Farm. We can give the farm a lot of good fertilizer to use.”
Guilmette expressed that this composting should become a regular part of student’s lives.
“Hopefully this takes off and in subsequent years it will be institutionalized,” he said. “When students pick up their recycling bins, then they’ll also pick up their composting bins. It won’t be something we hope they do, but more of an expectation.”