OU working on solutions for composting ware

An in vessel machine breaks down food waste and other products mostly collected from campus into what will become fertilizer for fields and gardens. (Photo by Emily Matthews)

The multiple ton in-vessel compost machine near The Ridges shreds all the food waste at Ohio University, but it fails to account for other compostable products, such as plates.

Problems regarding compostable ware from dining areas, such as West 82, include “contamination with non-compostable items” and the makeup of the plates. Those materials must be removed from the waste stream prior to breakdown, Steve Mack, director of facilities management, said.

There is no shredder for those materials yet, Mack said, but the university is working on solutions.

“We currently have a Senior Engineering Design Team working on the issue of handling and processing the materials,” he said in an email. “We are also exploring consulting options to look at the entire composting operation and determine costs and best practices for the future operation of the facility.”

Once solutions are determined, the university will search for funding sources.

The original compost system installed in 2009 cost approximately $800,000 with start up costs. In 2012, the facility was expanded by a grant worth more than $1 million, allowing the university to compost all its dining waste.

Facilities management has received two inquiries about expanding the existing composting operations, Mack said.

The Office of Sustainability works with groups such as the Zero Waste Initiative and the Office of Recycling and Refuse to increase awareness and education about requesting compost services at events. It also has been discussing with facilities about site improvements for composting to-go materials and grant opportunities, Annie Laurie Cadmus, director of sustainability, said.

Cadmus said facilities is handling compost operations “quite well” and wants to focus time on encouraging a reduction of food waste in the dining halls, which she said is higher than it should be.

More than $56,000 worth of food was thrown away at OU during the 2013-14 academic year, according to a previous Post report.

The Office of Sustainability has hosted food waste audits in recent years in collaboration with Culinary Services to educate students about food waste, Cadmus said.

“As each dining facility is renovated, our office has representation in the LEED (sustainable building design) meetings and we discuss the type of signage that can occur to encourage food waste reduction,” she said in an email.

Addy Kruse, a sophomore studying chemistry, said she is glad the university is working to make the campus more sustainable.

“It’s an investment the university can make,” she said. “We have all the compostable dishware and silverware because of grants, so the university should look into funding to get a shredder, and it’s a very good thing to have and it’s very green. That’s the best course of action we should be taking.”



Originally published for The Post on Feb. 6, 2017.


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