Pacia Purcell: Project Report

Composting Possibilities at OWU

Pacia Purcell

Outline:

  • Calculating food waste from Smith
    • How much is this costing OWU and how much could OWU save?
  • Possible Composting Techniques
    • Looking at other schools composting efforts
  • Composting with worms at Honors House
    • Researching composting and how it can work on a small scale and then implementing these techniques

Purpose: The purpose of my project was to learn about the food waste on campus and what can be done with it to make our campus more sustainable and to help the university save money. To do this I collected past and previous data about the food waste on campus and where exactly it goes. I also found how much could be saved if this food waste was composted. Additionally, I researched the composting process and started a small scale composting worm bin to eliminate food waste from the Honors House, where I live.

Food Waste on Campus: I first contacted Gene Castelli, the manager of Chartwells at OWU, to see if I could collect data on how much food waste is thrown out from the dining hall Smith. I was lucky enough to contact him at a time in which an outside company was coming in to access the food waste from Smith for a week. It was found from this outside company that food waste from Smith totals 1,000 to 1,300 pounds (325 gallons) per week. This includes all the food waste thrown from kitchen scraps, leftover food, and food left on student’s plates after they are done eating. From here I looked into where the food goes after it is taken out of the kitchen. There are three dumpsters in the Smith parking lot that are used for food waste. I calculated that each of these three dumpsters could hold about 400 pounds of waste, which correlates with the amount of food waste produced. I then went to the website of the waste company in charge of the dumpsters. I found that it cost $97 per month for one dumpster. From information that I gathered from a previous project in which food waste was collected for composting, I found that with food waste going towards composting at least one of the dumpsters could be removed.

Other Schools Composting: I researched composting efforts being made by other schools of similar size to OWU. I found examples of three different techniques being used. The first was of a school that had a small scale composting operation, but was receiving too much food waste to process. Therefore the school decided to invest in Earth Tubs, which are electrically run and able to process up to 100 pounds of food waste per day. The school invested in two of these and was able to process all of the food waste from the campus’s cafeterias. The second school I found collected the food waste and sent it off to an outside composting company. However, due to contaminated waste, the company stopped taking the food waste from the university. This is similar to the problems faced in the earlier composting project done at OWU. The third school I found had a successful, student-run composting operation. They built the composting tubs themselves, and they were kept up by several student volunteers from the school’s environmental club. The school found that by composting their food waste on campus they saved about $2,000 per semester.

Composting at Honors House: After a visit to Aleks Ilich’s house where he has a small worm composting operation in his garage, I was inspired to start composting myself. Over mid-semester break, I bought an undetermined amount of worms for $20 from a guy who also composts in Indianapolis. I then set up a storage tub that I found in my closet with paper bedding and food scraps to place the worms in, after finding a blog from a woman who had success doing the same thing. I brought the worms back to school with me and surprisingly things worked out rather well for a couple months. Their upkeep is relatively easy and include sprinkling water over their bedding a few times a week and feeding them once a week. However, after a couple months I hit a snag. The week before I had thrown in squash seeds, which the next week I found growing and none of the other food had been eaten by the worms. I left the tub alone for another week and upon inspection found that the squash sprouts had grown even taller and that there were other bugs in the tub. I then decided that I had sadly killed my worms.

Contacts:

Aleks Ilich: delawormfarm@gmail.com

Gene Castelli: gene.castelli@compass-usa.com

Resources:

https://reason.kzoo.edu/green/campusinitiatives/food/compost/

https://web.extension.illinois.edu/homecompost/science.cfm

http://foodshed.info/sites/default/files/3%20Years%20of%20Sucess.pdf

http://www.american.edu/library/news/composting_101.cfm

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